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. Finding out 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
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.

Signs of drug addiction

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 doctor, and seeking support from others can be a really great way of figuring out next steps. 

If you think you might have a drug problem, it could be worth checking out our fact sheet Signs of a drinking problem.

What can I do now?

  • Don’t go cold turkey unless you’ve checked with your doctor
  • Don’t replace one addiction with another
  • Learn more about types of drugs and their effects
Last reviewed: 16 February, 2014
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  • Student94    (64 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    (64 days ago)


    Glad you liked it :)

  • summerkj    (573 days ago)

    This was a great article. Thank you very much!