7 Important Signs You Might Have a Drug Problem

Updated July 18, 2023

In 2017, nearly 21 million people aged 12 and above required substance use treatment, but on 19 received treatement.

As the opioid epidemic continues to grow, this number is just going up.

Are you concerned about your alcohol or substance use? Do you think you may have a drug problem, even if you're not sure?

This article will walk you through the 7 signs of addiction that indicate you may have a problem.

1. Changes in Use

Let's say you've been using for awhile without many changes. You only do it for fun or to relax after a hard day. You're in control, right?

If you start to notice that you need to use more to get the same high or buzz, you might be building a tolerance to your substance of choice.

Tolerance occurs when your body gets used to having an alcohol or drug around and metabolizes it faster. To get the same high, you then have to intake more.

This can be a dangerous path. As you drink or use more and more, you get closer and closer to overdose levels, especially with alcohol and opiates.

If you find that you are drinking more or using more often then when you first started, you might have a problem.

Maybe you only used to drink one glass of wine after dinner, but now you are having one with every meal of the day.

Even if it's been a slow increase, drinking or using more often is a slippery slope. It's really hard to stop once you're on it.

2. Withdrawal Symptoms

One sign that you've been using too much is that you start having withdrawal symptoms when you use a little less than normal.

We've all heard the phrase "withdrawal", but what does that actually look like? It can be different for every substance.

For alcohol, it can be the typical hangover, vomiting, headache, light sensitivity, dizziness, shakiness, and irritability. If you are starting to be dependent on alcohol, these symptoms will be stronger, and you will feel worse.

If you're withdrawing from opiates, you may experience flu-like symptoms. You may feel feverish, achy, agitation, insomnia, vomiting, diarrhea, and anxiety.

Cocaine withdrawal symptoms are depression, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, and loss of appetite.

The longer and more frequently you have used a drug, the stronger your withdrawal symptoms will be.

3. Physical Symptoms

You may start to experience some unpleasant physical symptoms if you have a drug problem.

You might start to gain or lose weight quickly.

You might find infections in the places you shoot up.

You might have headaches or stomach problems when you haven't used in awhile.

You may be experiencing cravings. It's common for people to become unfocused and preoccupied with their next high.

All of these can be physical signs that your body is in trouble and needs help.

4. Job or Educational Problems

Most people in this country either work or are in school. Issues in either of these places can mean your using is becoming a problem.

Common problems addicts experience are:

  • Lateness
  • Inability to complete work
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Loss of focus
  • Suspensions/reprimands

If you have ever been fired or expelled because of your using, you definitely have a drug problem.

5. Behavior Changes

While all of us change our behavior throughout our lives, people with a drug problem do so in a very short time span.

These are common behavior changes in people with drug problems:

  • Depression
  • Loss of joy
  • Loss of energy
  • Financial problems
  • Lying

Let's look at each one individually.

It's quite common for people with addictions to feel depressed. They may feel depressed and use drugs to feel better or they may feel depressed because they are using drugs. Either way, depression can make it hard for people to stop using.

One sign of a problem is that a person no longer enjoys their old hobbies. If you used to love playing your guitar but just can't seem to make yourself play, you may have a problem.

People who struggle with addiction also have a loss of energy. Any extra motivation they have is used to survive until their next hit. This is another reason you may lose interest in your favorite activities and feel depressed.

As we saw above, people who have a drug problem are also having financial issues too. It can be pretty tough to support a drug habit while barely holding down a job.

One last behavior change is lying. People with a drug problem will do anything to keep that next hit coming. This includes lying to employers, doctors, and people you care about.

If you've found yourself lying about your drug use or lying to get drugs, you probably have a problem.

6. Legal Issues

Many drugs are illegal. It's also illegal to do a lot of activities while drinking or high, like driving, being in some public places, or even having sex in some situations.

If you've ever driven while under the influence of a drug or done something illegal because you were high, you have a drug problem.

Because of the cost of drugs, many addicts turn to criminal behaviors like stealing or writing bad checks. If you've ever been arrested or done something illegal to support your habit, you have a problem with drugs.

7. Relationship Issues

The last sign that you may have a drug problem is in your relationships.

Have your family and friends noticed changes in your drug use or your behavior? Have they asked you to stop? Have they said you need help?

A major red flag is you've been lying to those closest to you.

Are you sneaking around and hiding things? Telling everyone that you're fine? Lying about how much you're actually using?

Another common sign that you have a problem is when you are losing your relationships.

Has your significant other left you? Have your friends stopped inviting you over? Are you running out of people to call when you're too drunk to drive?

Trust the people closest to you. If they are concerned about you, chances are, you need help.

Do You Think You Have a Drug Problem?

Are you suddenly noticing that your fun habit is taking up more and more of your thoughts and your life in general? If you feel like your drinking or drug use is out of control, it probably is.

If you think you might have an issue with drugs, don't be afraid to look into a detox program. There is help; you don't have to suffer alone.


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hangovers/symptoms-causes/syc-20373012
  3. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/withdrawal-timelines-treatments/

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on April 18th, 2018.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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