The facts about drug addiction

It can help to know the signs of drug addiction and different types of dependence if you’re not sure if you have a problem. Understanding the negative effects on the body and mind can also give some perspective on drug use. But drug addiction is treatable, and finding out how to get help is the first courageous step to feeling better.

This might help if:

  • You want to know more about drug addiction
  • You or someone you know might be suffering from drug addiction
  • You want to know signs of addiction
drug paraphernalia on a web

Signs of drug addiction

Drug addiction is complex and can hurt people in a number of different ways. Not only does it have a physical health impact, but it can also affect mental health and social connections if you’re not careful.

Drug addiction occurs mostly with excessive use of party and other drugs; but prescription medication can also be a source of drug addiction and dependence.

Some of the signs of drug dependence include:

  • Avoiding non-users
  • Feeling uncomfortable and alone without drugs
  • Losing weight
  • Lying or not being honest with friends and family about how much you’re using
  • Getting into debt or spending money you can’t afford on drugs
  • Selling belongings to pay for drugs
  • Stealing from other people to pay for drugs 

Types of drug addiction

Drug addiction can come in many different forms including both physical and psychological dependence on specific types of drugs. Some drugs that cause physical dependence include:

  • Heroin
  • Benzodiazepines 
  • Tobacco

Drugs that cause psychological dependence can include:

  • Cannabis 
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Ecstasy
  • LSD and magic mushrooms

Negative effects of drug addiction

There are a number of negative effects that come with drug addiction. Different drugs have different long term effects, however some common symptoms include:

  • Heightened anxiety or panic attacks
  • Psychosis 
  • Memory or attention loss
  • Severe depression
  • Significant weight loss
  • Heart problems
  • Sexual problems (including impotence)

Getting help

Recognising the problem is the first step in getting help for addiction. No one can force another person to undergo treatment for a problem they don’t believe they have.

Many people think they can go cold turkey and give up drugs on their own, but that’s a really difficult way of going about it and often not the most successful. Talking to someone, whether it is a friend, teacher, parent, or a professional (a doctor or support service staff etc), is the best way of starting your recovery and figuring out your next steps. 

It can be hard to know where to find the right support you need. ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. Try ReachOut NextStep to learn about the support options available for you.

What can I do now?

  • Don’t go cold turkey unless you’ve checked with your doctor.
  • Get personalised support options for drug addiction with the ReachOut NextStep tool.
  • Don’t replace one addiction with another.
  • Learn more about types of drugs and their effects.
Last reviewed: 04 March, 2016
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  • Student94    (883 days ago)

    It's really beneficial that this factsheet highlights how recognising the problem and learning about drug addiction are the first courageous steps to feeling better

  • jvkn    (883 days ago)


    Glad you liked it :)

  • summerkj    (1392 days ago)

    This was a great article. Thank you very much!