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Drug addiction is a complex problem involving physical and psychological urges. Addiction to different drugs has different consequences, and the reasons for taking too many drugs vary from person to person.

This can help if:

  • you’re worried about your drug use
  • you’re worried about someone else’s drug use
  • you want to know the signs of drug addiction.
Man smoking on a joint

What is drug addiction?

‘Drug addiction’ means an uncontrollable urge to consume a drug because of a physical or mental dependency on the chemical in the drug. Sometimes addiction is focused on one type of drug; at other times, there is a craving for any kind of drug.

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

Are all drugs addictive?

The long answer is that some drugs are more addictive than others. While not all drugs are physically addictive (when you have physical withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking them), they can still be psychologically addictive (meaning you develop a mental dependency on them).

What are the signs of drug addiction?

Because drug addiction is so complex, the signs aren’t always straightforward. If you’re concerned that you might be developing an addiction, there are some indicators to look out for.

Social signs

  • You’re avoiding people who don’t take drugs.
  • If you can’t get your drug of choice, you feel uncomfortable and alone.
  • You’re lying, or not being honest with friends and family, about how much you’re using.
  • You’re in debt or spending money you can’t afford on drugs.
  • You’ve begun selling your belongings to pay for drugs.
  • You’ve been stealing from other people to pay for drugs.

Physical and mental signs

These can include:

  • heightened anxiety or panic attacks
  • psychosis
  • memory or attention loss
  • severe depression
  • significant weight loss
  • heart problems
  • sexual problems (including impotence).

What can I do about my drug use?

If you take drugs regularly and you have some of the symptoms listed here, it’s important that you talk to a doctor or a mental health professional (such as a drug counsellor or a psychologist) as soon as you can. Continuing to take drugs might seem like the only way to feel better, but it can lead to some pretty serious consequences, including ongoing mental and physical health issues, or even death.

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.

Talk to a doctor or a health professional. Try using ReachOut NextStep to find the help that’s right for you.

Don’t go cold turkey. It might seem easier to just stop taking drugs and to manage withdrawal on your own, but this is actually the most difficult way to go about it. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a health professional, start with a trusted friend or family member.

What can I do now?