Characteristics of Alcohol / Drug Dependence

There are many warning signs and characteristic behaviors associated with alcohol or drug dependence. Sometimes, it is difficult to identify these in a person who is battling an addiction because he or she withdraws from others or only associates with other users.

Early on in the development of a dependency, cravings are the most common characteristic in users. Cravings can be strongest at certain times of the day, particularly after certain activities associated with the drug’s use, such as eating or upon waking. The drug eventually becomes part of a person’s daily routine. If this habit is interrupted or brought into question, the user often becomes annoyed or angry.

Other common signs that a person has an addiction include:

  • Loss of control – engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence.
  • Compulsive preoccupation – worrying compulsively about getting a “fix” and spending a lot of their time thinking about the drug.
  • Continued use of the drug of choice despite negative consequences – losing control of the ability to monitor how much and how often the user takes their drug.
  • Loss of motivation – losing interest in activities that the user enjoyed prior to addiction.

While an addict is under the influence of drugs, he or she is more likely to partake in activities that are not only harmful to himself but to others. Such dangerous activities include:

  • Driving under the influence.
  • Sharing needles.
  • Having unsafe sex.

When a person develops a drug dependency, the body needs the drug in its system to function normally. Therefore, when the drug is suddenly absent, withdrawal symptoms appear. Withdrawal is a general term used to describe the symptoms that occur when a person discontinues using a drug that has been present in the body for a long time.

Nearly all drug users experience some form of withdrawal symptoms, which can be mitigated by carefully monitored and prescribed medications. Withdrawal usually produces symptoms that are the opposite of the effects that the drug of choice produces in the body.

Some common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Increased heart rate.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Sweating.
  • Tremors.

Depending on the type of drug addiction and the length and severity of the addiction, more serious symptoms may arise. These include a feeling of confusion, seizures, and visual hallucinations that require immediate emergency care. Sudden withdrawal from some drugs, such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates, can be fatal.