Addiction happens when a substance (like drugs or alcohol) or activity (like gambling, sex, shopping) that can be pleasurable becomes compulsive an interferes with daily responsibilities, health, work, school and/or relationships. People with an addiction may not know that their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.

Admitting that you or a friend is struggling with addiction can be difficult and overwhelming. It can be hard to stop the behavior without the right type of support. Fortunately, treatment and recovery programs work. The first step is reaching out to a friend, family member or counselor and being honest about what’s going on and how it is impacting our lives.

We’ve included more information on substance abuse below, but it’s important to reach out if we are concerned about any type of addiction. Getting help is the first step to feeling better.


There’s nothing wrong with drinking responsibly. And prescription drugs, under a doctor’s care, can be an effective tool in improving your health physically and mentally. But if it’s crossed your mind that you or a friend need to keep your drinking or drug use in check, then you should trust that instinct. Worrying that you have had too many hard partying nights or that happy hour is cutting into your study time doesn’t make you an addict. However, small problems often escalate to bigger ones when unaddressed, and alcohol or drug dependence (addiction) can be prevented if you are proactive.

Drug and alcohol abuse (blackouts, binges, using drugs to cope) can lead to dependence. People who are dependent on alcohol or drugs may build up tolerance and need increasing amounts to feel the same effects. They may spend more time obtaining and using them, as well as recovering from their effects. They may find themselves repeatedly unable to quit using substances, even once they recognize that they have a problem. When they do quit, they can go into withdrawal, which is sometimes life threatening.

Alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases. But they are treatable diseases — and the sooner we speak up and get help, the easier it is to feel better and correct the negative impact dependence has on our lives.  Here are some symptoms of substance abuse and addiction:


  • Drinking alone
  • Episodes of violence with drinking
  • Hostility when confronted about drinking
  • Lack of control over drinking—being unable to stop or reduce alcohol intake
  • Making excuses to drink
  • Shaking in the morning

See more symptoms of alcohol abuse and dependence

Drug Abuse

  • Increased irritability, agitation and anger
  • Unusual calmness, unresponsiveness, or looking “spaced out”
  • Apathy and depression
  • Paranoia and delusions
  • Temporary psychosis or hallucinations
  • Abnormally slow movements, speech or reaction time, confusion and disorientation (often seen in opiates, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates)
  • Cycles of being unusually talkative, “up” and cheerful, with seemingly boundless energy (often seen in cocaine and methamphetamines)
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Cycles of excessive sleep

See more symptoms of drug abuse and dependence

Get more facts on drugs.