Addiction Signs, Symptoms, Effects and Treatment

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Understanding Addiction and Getting Help

It can be overwhelming to face addiction. However, looking at how addiction has affected you or a loved one can help you decide whether to get treatment.

Addictions to Specific Drugs

The signs and symptoms of addiction can vary from drug to drug. Different drugs may require different types of treatment programs.

  • Alcohol is the most commonly used drug and leads to dependence in many people. [Heavy users can experience serious health problems. The acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome is comprised of severe and often dangerous symptoms, often requiring close medical monitoring and pharmaceutical intervention during the detoxification process.
  • Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug.Some users become dependent and experience long-term health problems and cognitive difficulties.
  • Cocaine is an addictive stimulant that causes users to feel a sense of euphoria and increased energy. It is most frequently snorted or injected, though it can also be smoked.Crack cocaine is an extremely potent, smokable freebase form of cocaine.
  • Heroin is a opium derivative that causes feelings of euphoria and slowed breathing. It is estimated that 23% of people who try heroin become dependent on it.1
  • Crystal meth is a stimulant that causes an intense euphoria and an increase in energy. Many users end up staying awake for long periods of time and then crashing for several days.
  • Spice/K2 is a form of synthetic cannabis that has a reputation for being harmless. However, the chemicals in Spice/K2 have been known to change from batch to batch, and the effects can be unpredictable.2
  • LSD is a hallucinogenic drug that causes a change in mood, altered sense of time and unusual sensory experiences. A user’s experience taking LSD can differ, and not all people find it to be pleasurable.
  • Adderall is a pharmaceutical formulation of amphetamine prescribed for the management of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). At high doses, Adderall can be highly addictive because it produces a high similar to cocaine and crystal meth.
  • Antidepressants are safe and effective when taken as prescribed by a physician. However, antidepressants can be addictive and unsafe when taken in high doses and when mixed with other drugs, such as alcohol.
  • Oxycodone is an opioid medication that is prescribed for pain. It can quickly lead to dependence when misused or even when taken as prescribed.
  • Ambien is a prescription medication that is used to treat insomnia. Some users may become addicted to Ambien and find it difficult to sleep without it.
  • Anabolic steroids contain molecular variants of the male sex hormone testosterone. They may be abused because of their ability to increase muscle growth and enhance athletic performance.

Signs & Symptoms of Addiction

Addiction means you continue to use despite negative consequences.

Addiction means you continue to use a drug despite negative consequences. People who become addicted experience a manipulation of the reward center of their brains that may, in part, drive the compulsion to continue using the substance.3 The signs and symptoms of addiction can vary from person to person, and two people addicted to the same drug may have different experiences.

A person may be diagnosed with a substance use disorder if he or she reports at least 2 of the following symptoms:4

  • Using more of a drug than originally planned.
  • Feeling unable to control use.
  • Spending large amounts of time acquiring, using or recovering from the drug.
  • Failing to fulfill roles at home, work or school because of drug use.
  • Having strong urges to use.
  • Continuing to use despite experiencing physical and mental health problems.
  • Continuing to use despite relationship problems.
  • Using in dangerous or risky situations.
  • Giving up important activities and hobbies in favor of drug or alcohol use.
  • Tolerance, or needing larger amounts of the drug to feel its desired effects.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Paying for Treatment

The cost of treatment varies widely depending on the type of program, length of treatment, location and available amenities. Typically, programs that provide medical assistance and offer luxury services are in the higher price range. Despite the wide range in cost, many affordable treatment programs exist.
paying for addiction treatment with credit card

  • Detox can be part of an inpatient or outpatient rehab program or carried out in a detox center. Since it requires close monitoring by medical professionals, the costs are often comparable to hospital visits. Most detox programs cost between $250 and $1,000 per day and up. Detox is especially helpful for people quitting alcohol and prescription medications, including opiates.
  • Inpatient treatment usually costs between $2,000 and $30,000 for 30 days of treatment. Luxury and executive rehabs often cost more because they offer additional amenities.
  • Outpatient treatment ranges from free to $10,000 for 30 days. Typically, outpatient programs that offer more group and individual therapy sessions cost more. Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) offer access to hospital-based services and tend to be more expensive than intensive outpatient programs (IOP).

Using Insurance

Health insurance can significantly reduce the cost of treatment. Each health insurance plan differs with regard to how much is covered. Traditionally, HMO plans cover all or most of the costs of treatment. But they require that you attend a program that is within the plan’s network. PPO plans usually let you select which program you would like to attend, but they may only cover a portion of the costs.

If you do not have health insurance, you can ask treatment facilities if they offer sliding scales or payment plans. Other options include:

  • Using health care credit cards.
  • Borrowing money from friends and family.
  • Tapping your savings account or 401(k).
  • Taking out a loan.

Treatment doesn’t have to be expensive; to better understand if your insurance will cover most or all of the treatment, check your insurance coverage today.

Call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) national helpline to learn more about rehab programs in your area that help people without insurance.

Getting Treatment and Starting Recovery

Questions About Insurance?

Call 1-888-319-2606

Helpline Information to speak directly with a trained representative about which treatment programs your insurance covers and what your costs will be.

Choosing a treatment program can seem daunting, since many options are available. However, spending some time learning about the different types of recovery programs can help ensure that you choose a program that will maximize your recovery efforts and that the selected program will be one that you can afford.

Some important points to consider when choosing a program include:

  • What type of program you need? Do you need to stay at a treatment facility (inpatient) for a period of time, or do you prefer to live at home (outpatient) and attend treatment for a few hours a day? People who have more severe addictions, or people who have relapsed when trying to quit, often benefit from temporarily living at a treatment facility.
  • The length of the program. Some rehabs offer 30-day, 60-day or 90-day programs, while others have no set length. Health insurance companies can also limit how many days they will cover. Most programs provide aftercare planning toward the end of your stay to help you decide whether it is best for you to return home, transition to sober living and/or continue in outpatient treatment.
  • The program’s approach to addiction treatment. There are several different approaches to treating addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), contingency management, motivational interviewing and behavioral couples therapy are considered to be evidence-based, meaning that they have been shown to be effective in research trials. 5 Twelve-step programs offer another approach that is based on the philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous. Programs also differ with regard to the amount of group, individual or family therapy that they offer.
  • The accreditation of the program. Accredited programs have passed rigorous standards and are assumed to offer high-quality care. The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), the National Committee for Quality Assurance and the Joint Commission all accredit rehab programs.
  • Treatment program staff. Most rehab programs involve a treatment team, meaning that the medical team, mental health professionals and addiction specialists all work together to provide quality care. However, programs differ with regard to staff-to-client ratio, whether they offer medical and/or mental health services and whether staff are licensed and experienced in treating addiction.

Types of Addiction Recovery Programs

man in therapy for addiction

Many different types of treatment programs exist. Take some time to reflect on your own personal needs and the type of program that you feel would best fit you. Before you enter treatment, you will have an opportunity to speak with the intake department, who will be able to answer any questions that you might have.

  • Detox programs include a staff of medical professionals who prescribe medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms. For some drugs, including alcohol and benzodiazepines, withdrawal can be dangerous, and it is strongly recommended that it be done under the supervision of a detox center.
  • Inpatient drug rehab programs allow you to reside at a treatment facility for a period of time. They offer group, individual and family therapy in a safe, drug-free environment.
  • Outpatient drug rehab programs offer group, individual and family therapy for a few hours a week. Outpatient substance abuse treatment allows you to live at home or at a sober living facility while meeting daily with your recovery counselor or participating in your program.
  • Twelve-step programs may offer inpatient or outpatient services that focus on the 12-step philosophy of addiction. Twelve-step programs believe that recovery is a life-long journey that is done through connection with a higher power and support from other sober people.
  • Dual diagnosis programs provide help for both addiction and mental health problems. Mental health disorders are common among people with addiction issues, but few people receive adequate treatment. 6 Fortunately, many treatment programs now offer services for people with dual diagnosis issues.
  • Adolescent programs help teens and young adults struggling with addiction issues. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that adolescents do not need to meet criteria for a substance use disorder or addiction in order to benefit from treatment.7 Young people who are experimenting with drugs, or experiencing problems because of their drug use, expose themselves to risky situations and are more likely to increase their drug use in the future. Substance use should be addressed early to minimize future harm.

Benefits of Rehab Centers

Rehab programs offer many benefits over trying to recover on your own.

  • They provide support from trained staff.
  • They can assist with other mental health issues.
  • They can equip you with the tools needed to build a life that does not revolve around drugs and alcohol.

Dealing With Relapse

Relapse doesn’t mean you’ve failed.

Many people trying to quit drugs and alcohol eventually relapse.8 But it’s important to remember that relapse is part of the recovery process and does not mean that you have failed in your recovery. It just means that it is a good time to either seek professional treatment or to try a new treatment approach. 9

Short and Long-Term Effects of Addiction

Addiction can have significant short-term and long-term effects on your physical and mental health. Specific effects vary based on the type of drug, length of use, amount used, and how it is used.

Short-term effects can include:

man who can't sleep thinking about addiction
  • Paranoia.
  • Aggression.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Changes in appetite, body temperature and sleep patterns.
  • Increase in risky behaviors.
  • Poor judgment.
  • Altered heart rate and rhythm.10

Long-term effects can include:

  • Increased risk of contracting diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis.
  • Increased risk of some forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke and lung disease.
  • Kidney and liver damage.
  • Infertility.
  • Problems with memory, attention and decision-making.
  • Mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and/or psychosis.10

The good news is that many of the effects of addiction are reversible. Quitting drugs or alcohol provides an opportunity to treat any current effects of addiction and prevent future problems.

Finding a Rehab Center

Addiction can be painful, but you don’t have to deal with it alone. If you or a loved one is experiencing addiction, call our helpline at 1-888-319-2606 Helpline Information to talk with a recovery support specialist who can assist you in finding a treatment center.


[1]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). DrugFacts: Heroin.

[2]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). DrugFacts: Synthetic cannabinoids.

[3]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). The science of drug abuse and addiction: The basics.

[4]. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

[5]. McGovern, M. P., & Carroll, K. M. (2003). Evidence-based practices for substance use disorders. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 26(4), 991-1010.

[6]. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2005). Substance abuse treatment for persons with co-occurring disorders. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 42. DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 05-3922. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

[7]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Principles of adolescent Substance Use Disorder treatment: A research-based guide.

[8]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Drugs, brains, and behavior: The science of addiction.

[9]. McLellan, A. T., Lewis, D. C., O’Brien, C. P., & Kleber, H. D. (2000). Drug dependence, a chronic medical illness: implications for treatment, insurance, and outcomes evaluation. JAMA, 284(13), 1689-1695.

[10]. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Medical consequences of drug abuse.

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