Signs and Symptoms

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Addiction?

The development of an addiction can take a long time or it can happen rapidly. People tend to move into addictive behaviors casually. Certainly, no one ever chooses to become an addict or an alcoholic. No one wishes to become a slave to a substance or an activity such as gambling, sex, or pornography, to mention a few.

There are several identifiable stages to the addiction process. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, these stages include:

  1. Experimentation: Voluntary use of alcohol, drugs, or risky behaviors characterizes the experimentation stage. Sometimes, experimentation is in response to peer pressure, sometimes it is an attempt to ease stress, anxiety or fear. The initial use provides the addict with a wonderful sensation of either getting high, or calming down.
  2. Regular Use: Once the user decides he or she wants that feeling again and again, regular use begins. This stage may still be social in context and may not even happen every day, but it does happen consistently. The choice to use the substance can happen when certain feelings arise such as loneliness, anger, boredom etc.
  3. Risky Use: Negative implications arise from continued use. These can be legal problems (driving while intoxicated or stealing money for drugs), financial problems (spending money on substances before paying the bills), behavioral problems (poor work performance, poor grades in school), accidents (automobile accidents, physical fights, falling).
  4. Dependence: The more one uses a substance, such as drugs or alcohol, the greater the level of tolerance. The brain’s ability to function in a normal pattern is interrupted and altered by the presence of the substance. Dependence becomes the controlling reality in the user’s life.
  5. Addiction: Substance use becomes compulsive and out of control. The individual no longer has a choice about using, the body demands the substance at regular intervals (cravings) or withdrawal symptoms begin. At this point, the user has changed everything about his or her life for the worst. Responsibilities to others and indeed, to self no longer exist. All the user cares about is getting the substance and avoiding withdrawal. Life in the normal context has ceased to exist; addiction has taken over.

Other signs and symptoms of addiction can be:

  • Lack of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Lack of appetite
  • Loss of motivation
  • Change of friends
  • Mood changes
  • Physical ailments: tachycardia, high blood pressure, respiratory problems
  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Loss of memory
  • Confusion
  • Shakes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Denial
  • Depression (other mental health disorders not present before addiction)

There are many more symptoms that can be directly related to the drug of choice.

The only way to break the addiction is to get help.

Treatment Alternatives Offers Addicts a Solution

No one has to live in active addiction. Treatment does help stop addiction and provide the client with the knowledge, tools, and support to remain in recovery. Recovery needs to be understood as a life-long commitment, one worth the time, the pain, and effort to regain your life. Treatment Alternatives uses best practices to break the patterns associated with addiction. It provides clients with a multidisciplinary therapeutic environment to alter addictive behaviors, thinking patterns, manage cravings, and handle life’s challenges in self-affirming ways. Our staffs of addiction physicians, highly trained and experienced therapists and supporting clinicians, are dedicated to helping clients succeed. We want our clients to re-engage in life as happy, healthy productive human beings.


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