Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) outlines the signs and symptoms associated with drug addiction. If you have two or more of the following symptoms, reaching out for some degree of professional help is a good idea.
- You use drugs more often than you intend to in greater amounts than intended.
- You have attempted to cut back or quit on your own with limited success.
- You spend a significant amount of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of your drug of choice.
- You often experience intense cravings for your substance of choice.
- You have started to neglect personal obligations and responsibilities because of your drug use.
- You have experienced interpersonal problems as a direct result of your substance use (issues with friends and family).
- You neglect activities and hobbies you previously enjoyed in order to use drugs.
- You engage in risk-taking behaviors while under the influence of drugs, like combining your substance of choice with other chemical substances or driving while intoxicated.
- You continue to use your substance of choice despite worsening symptoms of a pre-existing physical or mental health issue.
- You develop a physical tolerance, meaning more of the substance is required in order for the desired effects to be produced.
- You experience withdrawal symptoms when you abruptly stop using your drug of choice.
There are both short and long-term mental effects associated with drug use. Effects depend heavily on the specific substance being used and whether or not the individual was previously suffering from a mental illness. Common mental effects of drug use or dependence include:
- Mood swings.
- Increased irritability and agitation.
- Angry or violent outbursts.
- New or worsening symptoms of anxiety.
- New or worsening symptoms of depression.
- Panic attacks.
- Suicidal ideation or attempts.
- Problems with concentration and memory.
There are many short and long-term physical effects of drug use. These effects range in severity, and depend heavily on several factors including the type of substance being used and the presence of any pre-existing chronic health conditions. Common physical effects of drug use and dependence include:
- Increased risk of cancer.
- Liver and kidney disease.
- Cardiovascular issues and heart disease.
- Significant changes to weight.
- Gastrointestinal and digestive issues.
- Severe dental problems.
- Skin lesions, infections, and abscesses.
- Increased risk of accident or injury.
Preventing Drug Addiction
Can the development of drug addiction be prevented? In short, yes — but the only fool-proof way to avoid developing an addictive disorder is by completely avoiding all mood and mind-altering substances and maintaining total abstinence. For many individuals, completely avoiding all chemical substances is unrealistic. However, research shows that outreach and education concerning the dangers of illicit drug use have been beneficial in helping reduce addiction cases.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports, “Results from NIDA-funded research have shown that prevention programs involving families, schools, communities, and the media are effective for preventing or reducing drug use and addiction. Although personal events and cultural factors affect drug use trends, when young people view drug use as harmful, they tend to decrease their drug taking. Therefore, education and outreach are key in helping people understand the possible risks of drug use. Teachers, parents, and health care providers have crucial roles in educating young people and preventing drug use and addiction.”