Causes, Symptoms & Effects of Drug Addiction

Located in Chattanooga, TN, Erlanger Behavioral Health Hospital offers inpatient mental health treatment, with additional programming for patients who are also struggling with co-occurring addiction concerns.

Understanding Addiction

Get the facts about substance abuse and addiction

One of the many dangers of abusing alcohol or other drugs is that this behavior can lead to addiction.

When you become addicted to a substance, you may find it difficult or impossible to control how often you use the drug. You will develop a tolerance, which means that you will need larger amounts of the drug in order to achieve the desired effects. When you try to stop, you may experience painful or even dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Addiction is a progressive disease, which means that this condition will continue to worsen if you fail to receive effective help. Addiction can have a profound negative impact on your physical, psychological, emotional, and social well-being.

However, with the right type and level of treatment, you can overcome the compulsion to use alcohol or other drugs. Comprehensive, personalized treatment for addiction can allow you to regain control of your life. When you get help, you can achieve successful long-term recovery from addiction.


Statistics about substance abuse and addiction

The following statistics about substance abuse and addiction in the United States are from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):

Causes & Risk Factors for Addiction

Understand the factors that can raise your risk for addiction

The likelihood that a person will develop an addiction can be increased by a variety of genetic and environmental factors. If the following apply to you, you may be at increased risk for addiction:

  • Family history of substance use or addiction, especially among parents or siblings
  • Family history of mental illness
  • Personal history of mental illness or prior substance use
  • Early exposure to substance use
  • Associating with peers who abuse alcohol or other drugs
  • Overwhelming stress or pressure
  • Personal history of trauma
  • Having a novelty-seeking or impulsive personality

Signs & Symptoms of Addiction

Learn the signs and symptoms of addiction

Depending upon several factors, including which substance you have become dependent upon, addiction can cause you to experience a wide range of symptoms, and exhibit a variety of signs. The following are common signs and symptoms that may indicate that a person has become addicted to alcohol or another drug:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Spending significant amounts of time thinking about, using, or recovering from the substance
  • Feeling the need to use the substance in order to deal with stress or experience pleasure
  • Neglecting personal or professional responsibilities due to substance use
  • Continuing to use the substance even after experiencing negative effects that are directly related to prior use
  • Using the substance when it is obviously dangerous to do so, such as when driving a car or in combination with other substances
  • Trying to stop your substance use, but being unable to do so
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Losing interest in issues or activities that were previously of great importance to you

Physical symptoms:

  • Slurred speech patterns
  • Bloodshot or watery eyes
  • Increase or decrease in energy levels
  • Changes in appetite, and resultant changes in weight
  • Elevated or slowed heart rate
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Excessive talkativeness
  • Impaired coordination
  • Tics, twitches, or tremors
  • Itchiness
  • Constipation
  • Sexual dysfunction

Mental symptoms:

  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Significant changes in confidence or self-esteem
  • Unexplainable anger
  • Problems with focus or concentration
  • Impaired memory
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Depression

Effects of Addiction

Discover the potential effects of addiction

The effects of untreated addiction can be devastating. The impact can vary considerably, based upon factors such as which drug you have become dependent upon and the length of time you have been using the drug. The following are among the more common potential effects of addiction:

  • Organ damage
  • Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, and other blood-borne diseases
  • Heightened risk for certain forms of cancer
  • Physical injury due to actions while impaired by substance abuse
  • Onset or worsening of co-occurring mental illness
  • Strained or ruined relationships
  • Diminished performance in school or at work
  • Academic failure
  • Inability to get and keep a job
  • Financial difficulties
  • Arrest, incarceration, and other legal problems
  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Homelessness
  • Suicidal ideation

Please note that these and other negative outcomes due to addiction can be avoided. When you choose to enter an addiction treatment center, you can reduce your risk for continued harm. You can also begin to heal from past damage. When you receive the effective addiction treatment that you need, you can regain control of your behaviors and resume your pursuit of a healthier future.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Mental health disorders that may co-occur alongside addiction

If you have become addicted to alcohol or another drug, you may also have an increased risk for several mental health disorders, including the following:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Antisocial personality disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder

Effects of Withdrawal & Overdose

The signs, symptoms, and dangers of addiction withdrawal and overdose

Effects of withdrawal: When you develop an addiction, your body adapts to the presence of the substance or substances that you have been using. When you try to end your substance use, or when you cannot acquire the drug that you’ve been using, your body may experience a variety of distressing symptoms. This is known as withdrawal. Depending upon which drug you have become addicted to, you may experience the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • Powerful cravings for the drug
  • Flu-like symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Watery eyes and runny nose
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Pain in muscles and bones
  • Tics, twitches, and tremors
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions

Effects of overdose: Overdose occurs when your substance use overwhelms your body’s ability to properly metabolize the drugs you’ve been using. Overdose can be extremely dangerous, even fatal. Anyone who demonstrates the following signs after engaging in substance use may have overdosed and needs immediate medical attention.

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Significantly increased or decreased heart rate
  • Dramatic raising or lowering of body temperature
  • Faint, shallow, or labored breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizure
  • Bluish coloration near lips or fingertips
Marks of Quality Care
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval