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8 Signs You Might Be Physically Addicted to a Substance

a man struggles to conceal the signs of his physical addiction to drugs or alcohol

As important as it is to seek treatment for addiction, you might not even realize that you’ve developed one. An unrecognized addiction is impossible to treat and will only get worse over time. This is why it’s so necessary to recognize when you’ve developed a problem.

Northpoint Seattle can help you overcome addiction and take back control of your life. Call 425.414.3530 to learn more about our addiction treatment programs.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a disease that affects people’s behavioral, psychological, and physical health. It can cause compulsive behaviors and habitual use of substances, including drugs, alcohol, gambling, food, or sex. People with addiction often cannot control their urges to use these substances despite the negative consequences they may have on their lives. Common signs of addiction include withdrawal symptoms when not using the substance, neglecting responsibilities in favor of using the substance, and an inability to stop using even if desired. If untreated, addiction can lead to serious health problems such as organ damage or death due to overdose.

Some examples of physically addictive substances are:

  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium and Xanax)
  • Illegal drugs, such as heroin and amphetamines

As you can see, not every addictive substance is illegal. You’ve probably heard people joke about being addicted to coffee or chocolate, but being dependent on certain substances can be life-threatening. Unfortunately, many of these addictive and dangerous substances, such as alcohol and benzodiazepines, are widely used by many Americans.

8 Signs of Physical Addiction

You don’t have to witness someone abusing drugs to know they have a problem. There are many markers of physical addiction, and they can be hard to hide. Are you worried that you might be physically addicted to a substance? Are you concerned that a loved one is developing a dependency? Take a look at some of the most common signs and see if they sound familiar:

1. Cravings

Cravings are the most obvious and unmistakable sign of physical addiction. Unlike some physical symptoms, particularly strong cravings are hard to ignore and could very well be the thing that makes you take notice of your addiction for the first time. While it may be easy to dismiss a stuffy nose and sensitive eyes as the common flu, feeling an overwhelming urge to consume a substance can only come from dependency.

2. Increased Tolerance

The more you consume a drug, the more you need to take to get the same effects— which means you have to buy more and more over time. This is especially true for the following substances:

  • Alcohol
  • Opiates
  • Benzodiazepines

If you find that you need to consume larger doses of a substance each time, then you may have formed a physical dependency. Similarly, you might find that you’re able to function relatively “normally” when under the influence. Many people with addictions practice learned tolerance as a way of hiding their problem from others and themselves. It’s important to note that learned tolerance is not a sign of having your addiction under control but rather a way of hiding it.

3. Chronic Flu-Like Symptoms

A runny nose, red eyes, and a lingering headache are all common symptoms of a pesky flu. But could they be signs of something far more serious? Regular substance abuse can easily compromise your immune system, making you more susceptible to common colds. However, drug use itself can also cause the same symptoms. Headaches are a common withdrawal symptom of most physically addictive substances. Your eyes can also become affected by substance abuse. You may become overly sensitive to light, especially if you’re using cocaine or opiates. Many drugs cause red, bloodshot eyes.

4. Affected Energy Levels

Addiction is consuming and can greatly hinder your ability to go about your day. One of the hardest symptoms to deal with is affected energy. Sleep disorders are a common side effect of physical addiction, especially when the substance being abused is a stimulant. You might be using so often that you feel almost constantly energized, making sleep impossible. Of course, lack of sleep will only make you feel more tired in the long run. People who are sleep deprived often end up taking even more stimulants to compensate for their low energy. Other drugs can make you feel drained and lethargic, even when well-rested. People who frequently use heroin may sleep more than usual, but the quality of that sleep is diminished.

5. Changes in Weight

Rapid weight loss is a classic symptom of substance addiction, especially with opiates and amphetamines. These drugs can cause digestive issues, which make it difficult for the user to maintain their weight. These digestive issues can include:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach cramps

6. Memory Loss

It’s no secret that being under the influence of drugs can hinder your ability to think clearly. But did you know that some drugs affect your memory long after you’ve taken them?  Lengthy use of opiates and amphetamines also impacts the part of your brain responsible for forming memories, especially short-term ones. Chronic alcohol consumption can cause Korsakoff’s syndrome, which involves severe memory loss and even confabulation. This is when a person attempts to “fill in the gaps” of misremembered events by unintentionally making up details, which they then believe to be truthful.

7. New or Worsening Mental Health Issues

A change in behavior is sometimes the first sign that a loved one has developed a substance abuse problem. Withdrawals and sleep deprivation can cause people to become irritable and experience aggressive mood swings, making them unpleasant to be around. When you use addictive drugs, your brain releases unnaturally large amounts of dopamine, followed by a comedown of low dopamine levels. But as you develop a physical dependence and use them more frequently, your brain’s ability to keep regenerating the same amount of dopamine is drastically hindered. These low dopamine levels can cause mental health issues such as depression. You might find that you often feel down, anxious, or paranoid for no apparent reason, especially when you’re sober. You may even experience panic attacks. Physical addiction to some substances, particularly opiates and amphetamines, can also cause obsessive behaviors, such as fidgeting, skin picking, or organizing.

8. Poor Hygiene and Self-Care

Physically addictive substances rewire the brain to think that drinking water and eating food are less important than using, so it’s hardly surprising that they’d affect other life priorities. People consumed by physical dependence can pay less attention to their personal hygiene over time. They might stop showering, brushing their teeth, or wearing clean clothes. It’s a clear sign that they don’t quite have things together as they should.

The Importance of Getting Help and Treatment for Addiction

Addiction is a powerful and destructive force. It can affect both physical and mental health, disrupt relationships, lead to financial ruin, and even cause death. That’s why it’s so important to get help for addiction as soon as possible.

The earlier treatment begins, the more successful it tends to be. Seeking professional help allows individuals to benefit from evidence-based techniques, peer support, medical care, and other treatments that have been shown to be effective in helping people overcome addiction. Treatment can provide an individual with the skills needed to manage their cravings and triggers in order to stay abstinent from substance use.

Professional help may also include medication-assisted treatments to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. Treatment can also help individuals identify underlying issues that may have contributed to their addiction, such as trauma, anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. Working through these issues with a trained therapist can provide an individual with the tools they need to live a healthier and more fulfilling life in recovery.

Find Effective Addiction Treatment at Northpoint Seattle

If you’re struggling with an addiction, it’s important to seek treatment. Treatment can help you manage cravings and withdrawal symptoms, develop healthier coping skills, and build a strong support system. Treatment can also help you address underlying mental health issues that may be contributing to your addiction. No matter what kind of addiction you have, there are many treatment options available to help you on the road to recovery. Call Northpoint Seattle at 425.414.3530 or fill out our online contact form to learn about your options.