Alcohol and Drug Addiction: Signs, Complications and Rehab (2023)

What is addiction?

Addiction is a complex and chronic condition characterized by an inability to control or consistently abstain from substance use in spite of all the harm it causes.1,2,3 Addiction is the compulsive use of drugs or alcohol despite any negative consequences.13 Addiction is when drug or alcohol use does not stop and the individual fails to meet school, work, social, and family commitments.13 It may also involve tolerance and withdrawal.13

In some cases, theroad to addiction may start with intentional use of drugs and alcohol but, at some point, the person’s decision to continue using becomes increasingly out of their control.2,3,4 Eventually, seeking and consuming the drug/alcohol becomes a compulsion.2,3

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Signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug addiction

While there can be signs that someone is struggling with addiction, it can also be difficult to identify that someone has a problem because they will often be secretive and attempt to hide the issue from their loved ones. The secrecy can make it more difficult to recognize that someone is struggling with addiction.

Once an individual recognizes that they have a problem with drugs or alcohol, a diagnosis can be made. Diagnosis of an addiction requires an evaluation by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or a licensed alcohol and drug counselor.15

(Video) Drug Abuse, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.

Individuals who are dealing with addiction may display addictive behaviors. Those signs and symptoms may include the following:15-17

  • Alcohol and Drug Addiction: Signs, Complications and Rehab (1)Bloodshot eyes.
  • Rapid weight changes.
  • Changes in hygiene and appearance.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Increased irritability or aggression.
  • Changes in a social network.
  • Needing to use drugs regularly (every day or more than once a day).
  • Having intense urges for the substance.
  • Problems at school or work.
  • Lack of energy and motivation.
  • Issues with money (missing money, borrowing it without explanation).
  • Engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence.
  • Continuing drug or alcohol use despite negative consequences.

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What causes addiction?

Addiction is a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and makes them unable to control their use of drugs or alcohol.17 There are also various factors that may contribute to an individual developing an addiction. Some of these factors include genetics, mental health disorders, memory disorders, and gender.


Both genetics and lifestyle factors may play a role in addiction. In fact, studies have shown that addictions are moderately to highly inherited.9 While addiction can be shaped by genetics, addiction initially occurs based on the choices of the individual. So, while genetics may make someone more likely to become addicted to a substance, it is not the sole factor that influences an individual’s likelihood to become addicted.9 Environment and exposure also play a role in helping genetics shape a person’s inclination toward addiction.

(Video) Intervention: HEAVY Alcohol & Drug Addiction Takes Over Krystal’s Life After Traumatic Past | A&E

Mental Health Disorders

People who are struggling with addiction may also be diagnosed with a mental health disorder, or vice versa.10 Studies have found that around half of the people who experience a mental illness during their lifetime will also experience a substance use disorder (SUD).10 There are strong links shown between drug and alcohol addiction and mental health issues. When an individual is dealing with substance abuse and a co-occurring disorder (including anxiety, depression, or PTSD) that is recognized as a dual diagnosis, and both disorders should be treated to provide the individual with the best chance at recovery.


Studies have shown that men and women may use drugs and alcohol differently as well as responding to it in unique ways. Men are more likely to use most types of illegal drugs and are also more likely to end up in the emergency department due to that illegal drug use.11 In most age groups, men use or are dependent on illegal drugs and alcohol at a higher rate than women. While women may be more likely than men to suffer from cravings and relapse, both genders share a similar likelihood to develop an SUD.1

Addiction and the brain

Addiction affects areas of the brain involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory, and control over behavior.1,2,3 Substance addiction does not develop as a function of choice; it is instead born from a complex interplay of many different factors, including genes, trauma, drug access, and community influences.1

In addition, different groups have unique issues that surround their individual addictions, and these people may benefit from different types of tailored addiction treatment that take into account culture, gender, age, and socioeconomic factors.6

The withdrawal syndromes associated with certain types of physical substance dependence can be markedly unpleasant and/or dangerous.4

People at risk of a severe or complicated withdrawal stand to benefit from the added supervision, monitoring, and, when required, medications able to be administered in a medical detox setting.2,7,8Professional detoxification services are available to help you through distressing withdrawal symptoms, helping provide comfort and safety throughout the process.2

(Video) Inside NHS detox centre - Victoria Derbyshire

Addiction statistics

In 2019, 60.1% of people 12 and older used a substance in the past month.

  • 7 million people (50.8%) drank alcohol.
  • 1 million people (21.1%) used a form of tobacco.
  • 8 million people (13%) used an illicit drug.

Drug and alcohol addiction and SUDs are not uncommon. If you are struggling with addiction, you are not alone. In 2019, there were 20.4 million people 12 and older dealing with a SUD.12

  • 5 million people (71.1%) had an alcohol use disorder.
  • 3 million people (40.7%) had an illicit drug use disorder.
  • 4 million people (11.8%) had both an AUD and an illicit drug use disorder.

Of the people struggling with a SUD, only 4.2 million people (1.5%) obtained any type of substance use treatment in 2019.12

Common Addictions

People struggle with addiction to various substances, both legal and illicit. Learn more about the addictions and treatment below:

  • Alcohol Rehab Centers
  • Benzodiazepines Abuse Treatment
  • Cocaine Addiction Treatment
  • Heroin Rehab
  • Marijuana Treatment
  • Opioid Addiction Treatment

Finding rehab treatment for alcohol and drug addiction

Drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation involves various steps, but the first step is the acknowledgment that you or your loved one has a SUD. Once you determine that you or your loved one is struggling with substance abuse, the next step is to pursue treatment. To learn more about treatment for addiction, click here.

The journey from a substance use disorder (SUD) to a healthy, sober life is not a quick and easy one. Overcoming addiction is often very challenging and, for many, it takes a lifelong commitment of dedication and hard work. Theroad toward sobrietymay be difficult, but professional treatment helps many people start that endeavor.

(Video) Teen Substance Use & Abuse (Alcohol, Tobacco, Vaping, Marijuana, and More)

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  1. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2011). Public Policy Statement: Definition of Addiction.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Drug Misuse and Addiction: What is drug addiction?
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). The Science of Drug Use and Addiction: The Basics.
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens. (2017). Tolerance, Dependence, Addiction: What’s the Difference?
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). DrugFacts: Understanding Drug Use and Addiction.
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018).Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition):Types of Treatment Programs.
  8. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018).Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction: Treatment and Recovery.
  9. Bevilacqua, L., Goldman, D. (2009). Genes and Addictions. Clin Pharmacol Ther, 85(4): 359-361.
  10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Common Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorders Research Report: Part 1: The Connection Between Substance Use Disorders and Mental Illness.
  11. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020). Substance Use in Women Research Report: Sex and Gender Differences in Substance Use.
  12. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. PEP20-07-01-001, NSDUH Series H-55). Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  13. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Is there a difference between physical dependence and addiction?
  14. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2017). Tolerance, Dependence, Addiction: What’s the Difference?
  15. Mayo Clinic. (2017). Drug addiction (substance use disorder).
  16. New York State Department of Health and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Service. (n.d.). How do I Know? I think My Child is Using Alcohol and/or Drugs.
  17. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2007, January). Bringing the Power of Science to Bear on Drug Abuse and Addiction: Drugs Have Long0-term Consequences.


What are the three P's in addiction recovery? ›

In eating disorder recovery it is essential to focus on the three P's: Passion, Power and Purpose.

What are the biggest warning signs for addicts? ›

Physical warning signs of drug abuse
  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual.
  • Changes in appetite, sleep patterns, physical appearance.
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing, or impaired coordination.

What are 4 common symptoms of addiction? ›

Spending excessive amounts of money on the substance. Obsessing about the next dose, ensuring a consistent supply of the substance, and worrying about the next source of the substance. Performing risky behaviors while intoxicated. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when unable to take the drug.

What are 3 medical problems associated with substance abuse? ›

The Impact of Addiction Can Be Far-Reaching
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Stroke.
  • Cancer.
  • Hepatitis B and C.
  • Lung disease.
  • Mental disorders.
Jul 10, 2020

What are the five rules of recovery? ›

Teaching clients these simple rules helps them understand that recovery is not complicated or beyond their control. It is based on a few simple rules that are easy to remember: 1) change your life; 2) be completely honest; 3) ask for help; 4) practice self-care; and 5) don't bend the rules.

What are the five pillars of recovery? ›

The Five Pillars of Recovery from Trauma and Addiction
  • Maintain rigorous honesty. In addiction, our lives were built upon lies and false narratives we told ourselves and others. ...
  • Expose your secrets. ...
  • Let go. ...
  • Remember you aren't alone. ...
  • Know you matter.
Oct 7, 2020

What are red flags for substance abuse? ›

Warning Signs of Substance and Alcohol Use Disorder
  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual.
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns.
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits.
  • Runny nose or sniffling.
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination.

How many times does the average person relapse? ›

Unfortunately relapse rates for individuals who enter recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction are quite high. Studies reflect that about 40-60% of individuals relapse within 30 days of leaving an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center, and up to 85% relapse within the first year.

What are five warning signs of addiction? ›

Loss of coordination resulting in unexplained injuries, accidents or visible bruising; Unusual odors on breath, person or clothes; Shakiness, trembling, incoherent or slurred speech; Drinking alone or drinking in secret.

What are the three types of addicts? ›

However, in terms of substance addictions, some of the more common types of addiction include: Alcohol addiction. Prescription drug addiction. Drug addiction.

What are the nine cardinal signs of drug dependence? ›

General physical signs of addiction include but are not limited to:
  • Enlarged or small pupils.
  • Sudden weight loss or gain.
  • Bloodshot eyes.
  • Insomnia.
  • Unusual body odors.
  • Poor physical coordination.
  • Looking unkempt.
  • Slurred speech.

What are the 10 stages of addiction? ›

Read on to learn more!
  • Stage 1: Denial. You should be proud of yourself during recovery. ...
  • Stage 2: Avoidance/Defensiveness. ...
  • Stage 3: Crisis Building. ...
  • Step 4: Immobilization. ...
  • Step 5: Confusion/Overreaction. ...
  • Stage 6: Depression. ...
  • Stage 7: Behavioral Loss of Control. ...
  • Stage 8: Recognition of Loss of Control.

What are the complications of alcoholism? ›

High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems. Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum. Weakening of the immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick. Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.

What are the most common mental health disorders that occur with substance abuse? ›

The mental health problems that most commonly co-occur with substance abuse are depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.

What are 6 examples of substance abuse? ›

Substances frequently include:
  • Alcohol.
  • Marijuana.
  • Prescription medicines, such as pain pills, stimulants, or anxiety pills.
  • Methamphetamine.
  • Cocaine.
  • Opiates.
  • Hallucinogens.
  • Inhalants.

What are the 4 absolutes of recovery? ›

What are the four absolutes? The “Four Absolutes” of Alcoholics Anonymous were considered “yardsticks” in the earliest days of the recovery program —standards for determining appropriate behavior as measured through God's eyes. The Four Absolutes are Honesty, Purity, Unselfishness, and Love.

What are the 12 pillars of recovery? ›

The 12 spiritual principles of recovery are as follows: acceptance, hope, faith, courage, honesty, patience, humility, willingness, brotherly love, integrity, self-discipline, and service.

What are the 7 steps to recovery? ›

The 7 steps are: 1) awareness, 2) surrender, 3) readiness, 4) receptivity, 5) acceptance, 6) perspective, and 7) action.

What are the 6 six principles of recovery? ›

It has often been said to be about: gaining and retaining hope, understanding of ones abilities and limitations, engagement in an active life, personal autonomy, social identity, meaning and purpose in life, and a positive sense of self.

What are the 8 domains of recovery? ›

1) Physical and mental health; 2) Family, social supports, and leisure activities; 3) Safe housing and healthy environments; 4) Peer-based support; 5) Employment and resolution of legal issues; 6) Vocational skills and educational development; 7) Community integration and cultural support; and 8) (Re)discovering ...

What are the three levels of recovery? ›

There are generally three stages in the recovery process for addiction: abstinence, repair, and growth.

What are the 10 red flag symptoms? ›

What are the Top 'Red Flags' or Warning Signs?
  • Chest Pain:
  • Loss of Consciousness:
  • Shortness of Breath:
  • Unusual Bleeding:
  • Unexplained Weight Loss:
  • Thunderclap Headache:
  • High or Persistent Fever:
  • Symptoms of Stroke:
May 5, 2017

What are three red flag symptoms? ›

What is a red flag symptom?
  • Severe chest pain – heart attack, clot in lungs, collapsed lung.
  • Severe headache – bleed in brain, meningitis (a brain infection)
  • Shortness of breath – heart failure or COPD (a group of lung diseases that cause breathing difficulties), asthma.

What color is substance abuse? ›

Substance Abuse Awareness is represented by the color red.

What is the most common site of relapse in ALL? ›

Relapses most often occur in the bone marrow. Less commonly, ALL will relapse in the central nervous system (CNS; the brain and spinal fluid) or, in boys, in the testicles, without any bone marrow involvement.

At what point do most people relapse? ›

An article in Psychology Today cites studies that show most relapses happen within the first 90 days of abstinence, which is why attending a rehab program lasting at least 3 months may be most beneficial.

What personality traits are associated with addiction? ›

6 Personality Traits Linked to Addiction
  • Impulsivity. Impulsive people are often viewed as fun to be around due to their spontaneous nature, but this personality trait has a serious dark side. ...
  • Nonconformity. ...
  • Anxiety. ...
  • Low Tolerance for Stress. ...
  • Sensation Seeking. ...
  • Blame Shifting.
Sep 13, 2017

What are the 4 P's of addiction? ›

Screening tool that identifies alcohol, drug use and substance-related driving risk among adolescents and young adults. Parents, Partners, Past and Pregnancy (The 4Ps) Screening tool developed to detect dug, alcohol, and tobacco use among pregnant women and women of childbearing age.

What are the 3 rules of addiction? ›

Black addresses three major rules that exist within families when someone has a chemical dependency; don't talk, don't trust, and don't feel.

What signs struggle with addiction? ›

The following mental and emotional changes could also be signs of an addiction problem:
  • sudden changes in mood.
  • aggressive behavior.
  • irritability.
  • depression.
  • apathy.
  • suicidal thoughts.

What is a behavioral addict? ›

Behavioral addictions such as gambling, overeating, television compulsion, and internet addiction are similar to drug addiction except that the individual is not addicted to a substance, but he/she is addicted to the behavior or the feeling experienced by acting out the behavior.

What is level 3 of addiction? ›

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the 3 stages of addiction are based in different areas of the brain, and these 3 stages of addiction are the binge/intoxication stage, the withdrawal/negative affect stage, and the preoccupation/anticipation stage.

What are addictive behaviors examples? ›

Some of the most common types of behavioral addictions are:
  • Sex.
  • Gambling.
  • Internet.
  • Shopping.
  • Video games.
  • Plastic surgery.
  • Binge eating/food addiction.
  • Thrill-seeking activities.
Apr 13, 2023

What are common signs of drug seeking Behaviour in patients? ›

Box 1
  • Indicators of drug-seeking behaviours.
  • Typical requests and complaints. Aggressively complaining about a need for a drug. ...
  • Inappropriate self-medicating. ...
  • Inappropriate use of general practice. ...
  • Resistant behaviour. ...
  • Manipulative or illegal behaviour. ...
  • Other typical behaviours.
Jun 1, 2016

What are the 6 characteristics of addiction? ›

The addiction components model operationally defines addictive activity as any behavior that features what I believe are the six core components of addiction (i.e., salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, conflict, and relapse) (Griffiths, 2005).

What is a typical addict behavior in relationships? ›

Drugs can cause mood swings and paranoia. This can make it difficult for an addict to maintain healthy relationships. An addict may become irritable, argumentative, or even violent. For example, they may accuse their partner of cheating or being unfaithful, leading to a strained relationship.

What is the first stage of treatment for addiction? ›

During the initial stage of treatment, the therapist helps clients acknowledge and understand how substance abuse has dominated and damaged their lives. Drugs or alcohol, in various ways, can provide a substitute for the give-and-take of relationships and a means of surviving without a healthy adjustment to life.

What are the 5 components of addiction? ›

Authors Sussman and Sussman (2011) conduct a literature search to determine the definition of addiction, landing on and further defining five common elements: (1) feeling different; (2) preoccupation with the behavior; (3) temporary satiation; (4) loss of control; and, (5) negative consequences.

What is the first step in the development of alcoholism? ›

The earliest stage of alcoholism often begins with an increased pattern of drinking. This can mean drinking more frequently, as well as drinking larger quantities of alcohol. Binge drinking, which involves having multiple drinks within a small window, is a common initial sign of a drinking problem.

What are the first signs of liver damage from alcohol? ›

Generally, symptoms of alcoholic liver disease include abdominal pain and tenderness, dry mouth and increased thirst, fatigue, jaundice (which is yellowing of the skin), loss of appetite, and nausea. Your skin may look abnormally dark or light. Your feet or hands may look red.

What are the 3 types of alcoholic? ›

Alcohols bind with other atoms to create secondary alcohols. These secondary alcohols are the three types of alcohol that humans use every day: methanol, isopropanol, and ethanol.

What are the 4 types of drinker? ›

There are four types of drinker – which one are you?
  • Social drinking. To date, nearly all the research on drinking motives has been done on teens and young adults. ...
  • Drinking to conform. ...
  • Drinking for enhancement. ...
  • Drinking to cope.

What are the three priorities of recovery? ›

Keep It Simple.
  • Sobriety. Refraining from all substances always ranks as the first priority of each day. ...
  • Serenity. In order to stay sober today, maintaining a steady mindset and sense of calm is essential. ...
  • Self. Being sober coupled with a sense of calm helps with the 3rd priority of Self. ...
  • Family. ...
  • Job.
Nov 17, 2020

What are the three 3 types of recovery? ›

White defines three types of recovery capital:
  • Personal recovery capital. This includes an individual's physical and human capital. ...
  • Family/social recovery capital. ...
  • Community recovery capital. ...
  • Cultural capital.
Oct 8, 2019

What is step 3 in recovery? ›

About Step Three in Alcoholics Anonymous

By accepting Step Three, you make a proactive choice, a decision, to surrender your recovery journey to your Higher Power. This step embodies the concept of “Let go and let God,” versus muscling your way through the recovery journey on your own volition.

What are the 4 R's of recovery? ›


Based on the available evidence, we have identified a mnemonic entitled the 4R's which stands for Rehydrate, Refuel, Repair, and Rest.

What are the 10 guiding principles of recovery? ›

The 10 fundamental components of mental health recovery include the following principles:
  • Self-Direction. ...
  • Individualized and Person-Centered. ...
  • Empowerment. ...
  • Holistic. ...
  • Non-Linear. ...
  • Strengths-Based. ...
  • Peer Support. ...
  • Respect.

What is the best recovery methods? ›

Sleep more

Sleep gives your muscles time to recover from exercise. People who exercise intensely need even more rest than the average person. Some professional athletes allegedly sleep 10 hours or more per night.

What is the 5 second rule for addiction? ›

Mel Robbins explains the rule as, “The 5 Second Rule is simple. If you have an instinct to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it. The moment you feel an instinct or a desire to act on a goal or a commitment, use the Rule.

What is step 11 on sobriety? ›

Step Eleven in Alcoholics Anonymous. Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

What is step 4 in sobriety? ›

Step 4 of Alcoholics Anonymous encourages one to make, “A searching and fearless moral inventory” of themselves. In effect, this step is designed to help those struggling with addiction examine their character and behaviors.

What does AA mean in recovery? ›

Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of people who come together to solve their drinking problem. It doesn't cost anything to attend A.A. meetings.


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