In 2020, an estimated 41.1 million Americans aged 12+ self-reported needing treatment for alcohol or illicit drug use (SAMHSA). Here are some of the red flags and risk factors for addiction:
Common Risk Factors for Addiction
These factors elevate a person’s risk of developing a substance use disorder, though it is important to note that addiction can occur without any risk factors being present.
- Mental health diagnosis, such as anxiety, depression and/or co-occurring conditions.
- History of abuse, neglect of past trauma.
- Family history of addiction.
- Substance use at an early age.
Common Red Flags/Warning Signs of Addiction
Mental, Emotional and Behavioral:
- Illogical thinking
- Forgetful (may not remember past conversations or promises made)
- Excessive mood swings
- Unusual or erratic behavior
- Poor judgment or impulsive behavior
- Personality changes when drinking or using substances
- Loss of interests, activities, friends
- Angry or defensive if the topic of alcohol or other drug use is brought up
- Problems at work
- Financial problems; asking to borrow money
- Use of prescription tranquilizers, sleeping pills or headache medications
- Poor hygiene or signs of self-neglect
- Smell of alcohol or breath at inappropriate times (morning, while at work, etc.)
- Other addictions, such as smoking
- Legal problems
- Impaired physical coordination
- Slowed, slurred speech
- Sleepiness, lethargy during the day
- Pupils dilated or pinned
- Red eyes
- Excessive perspiration
- Runny nose
- Lip and finger burns
- Jumpiness, rapid breath
- Self or family report of problem
- Others in family struggle with addiction
- Friends are heavy users, social environment is accepting of substance use
- Family isolative, secretive or uninvolved
- Few friends
- Chronic relationship problems
- Blaming others, rationalizing behaviors
- Children’s behavior problems at school
Checklist: What to Ask …
Are you wondering if you or someone you care about could be developing an addiction to alcohol or other drugs? Here are some questions worth asking.
- Have you felt you wanted or needed to cut down on your drinking or drug use in the last year?
- How many times in the past year have you used an illegal drug or prescription medication for non-medical reasons?
- Are you always able to stop drinking alcohol/using drugs when you want to?
- Have you had blackouts or flashbacks as a result of alcohol or drug use?
- Do you feel bad or guilty about your alcohol or drug use?
- Does your spouse or parent(s) complain about your alcohol or drug use?
- Have you neglected your family because of your alcohol or drug use?
- Have you engaged in illegal activities to obtain drugs or alcohol?
- Have you experienced withdrawal symptoms (felt sick) when you stopped drinking alcohol or taking drugs?
- Have you had medical problems as a result of your alcohol or drug use (e.g. memory loss, hepatitis, convulsions, bleeding)?
You are not alone! We can support you or your loved one at every step of recovery.