Substance misuse and addiction

Substance misuse and addiction: What are the early signs?

Knowing the signs can help you identify a substance abuse issue in yourself or someone you care about.

What is addiction?

Put simply, addiction is when a person continues to repeat a behaviour and is unable to stop, even when they want to. Addiction affects the addicted person’s relationships, work, health and quality of life, and it can have a serious impact on the people around them, too.

Addiction is a very serious condition that can relate to many things, including shopping, sex and gambling, but it is most widely known in relation to drugs and alcohol.

Substance misuse or abuse relates to using a drug in a way that differs to its intended use. This can include prescription drugs, for example by taking more than the recommended dosage or taking the drugs for longer than is needed.

Is it a problem? Early warning signs

As mentioned above, addiction relates to the loss of control over when and how much a person drinks or uses substances. They may find themselves drinking or using more than they intended to, or drinking or using even when they had not planned to.

Other symptoms of addiction include:

  • Wanting to use drugs or drink more and more, even multiple times a day
  • Obsessing over drinking or drugs, thinking about them all the time
  • Not being able to stop, even if you want to
  • Spending a lot of time and money to get alcohol or drugs, even when you can’t afford it
  • Becoming unreliable at work, in relationships or with other commitments because of your drug or alcohol use
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (such as shaking or feeling sick) when you are not able to get alcohol or drugs

Signs of addiction in someone else

If you are worried about a friend or family member, you may notice that they have become withdrawn or are spending a lot of time with new friends. They may begin to look different: losing or gaining weight, looking paler or not being as careful with their appearance as they once were.

You might also notice they are becoming dishonest: lying about who they are with or where they have been, or taking things like money and valuables that don’t belong to them.

Every drug has different effects and drug-affected people can behave in a range of ways. Learn about different types of drugs at the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

Seeking help, for yourself or someone else

It’s important to remember that addiction is a disease and it does not discriminate. It can affect anyone, from any background, with any history.

As the largest private provider of mental health care in Australia, we are dedicated to making a real difference in the lives of those we treat.

Treatment for substance misuse and addiction depends on the type of substances involved, and how serious a person’s addiction is. Treatment may involve a mix of psychiatric interventions, psychological care, support groups and self-help strategies.

We encourage you to reach out to our expert team who can assist you in finding the right pathway forward.