Drug and Alcohol Addiction

The repeated use of drugs or alcohol can cause many problems, such as physical and psychological addiction, family difficulties, legal complications, health problems, difficulties at work, and troubled relationships.


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One of the first signs that a person has an alcohol or drug problem is the development of a pattern of usage called substance abuse. Substance abuse is noticeable when a person’s life or work begins to suffer because of alcohol or drug use. For example, a person might skip work in order to stay home and get high, while another person might start doing poorly in school because of excessive drinking.

Another indication of substance abuse occurs when alcohol or drug use begins to cause problems in a person’s relationships. This can include arguments between spouses when one of them is high, physical fights when a person is drunk, or loss of relationships due to substance use.

A third indication of substance abuse is the reoccurrence of legal problems caused by drug and alcohol use, like being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) or possession of drugs.

A fourth indication of a substance abuse problem is that the person uses drugs or alcohol in potentially dangerous situations, like driving while intoxicated or caring for children when he or she is under the influence of drugs.

Beyond the level of substance abuse is an even more dangerous level of alcohol and drug use called substance dependence. One of the first warning signs of substance dependence is tolerance, the need to use an increased amount of drugs or alcohol in order to achieve the same high or feeling that the person once did with smaller amounts. Tolerance indicates that the person’s body is adapting to regular use of the substance and is seeking higher doses.

A second indication of substance dependence is that the person spends a great deal of time getting and using drugs or alcohol.

A third sign is that the person misses important family and social events because he or she is too busy drinking or using drugs.

A fourth indication of substance dependence is that the person realizes he or she is unable to cut down on drinking or drug use.

A fifth warning sign is that the person uses drugs or alcohol in larger amounts and for a longer period of time than he or she originally anticipated.

A sixth indication of substance dependence is that the person continues to use drugs or drink alcohol despite the fact that he or she has problems caused by substance use, like ulcers or alcohol-induced depression.

And, finally, a seventh indication of substance dependence is if withdrawal occurs when the person reduces the amount he or she uses or stops using completely. Withdrawal is typically experienced as physical discomfort, emotional distress, or mental anxiety that makes the person want to restart his or her habit. Withdrawal from some substances can be potentially life-threatening, as with alcohol, and may include uncontrollable body tremors and hallucinations. Similarly, long-term dependence on certain medications like phenobarbital, diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan) can also lead to dangerous withdrawal symptoms and should be supervised by a medical professional.


This website is for informational purposes only and does not provide an official diagnosis. Anyone struggling with a physical or mental health problem should seek the services of a medical or psychological professional as soon as possible. Furthermore, if you’re having thoughts about suicide or hurting someone else, please see our crisis resources list, contact your local emergency services, or go to a local hospital immediately.