General Signs of Drug Addiction

Drug addiction usually starts as experimental use in social environments. While practically any drug can become abused, some have a higher risk of addiction than others. It’s crucial to recognize drug abuse instances early on so help can be implemented before addiction kicks in.

There are common signs and symptoms of drug abuse, and knowing them can help distinguish if a loved one is abusing substances.

General signs of drug abuse in women include:

  • Altered behavior
  • Appetite changes
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in physical appearances
  • Defensiveness about substance use
  • Financial issues
  • Lack of energy 
  • Poor work performance
  • Problems at school
  • Spending more money than usual

Sometimes, drug addiction can be co-occurring with mental health disorders. This requires a unique and simultaneous treatment approach known as dual diagnosis treatment. Here at New Directions For Women, we specialize in dual diagnosis treatment and other therapy methods. Read on to better understand the signs and symptoms of drug addiction and substance abuse treatment options.

Behavioral Signs

There are numerous behavioral signs of drug abuse. These behavioral signs include:

Obsessive Feelings and Actions

Obtaining and using drugs becomes the central priority of one’s life, thus causing a person to leave other obligations like work, family, and school sidelined.

Disregard of Risk Factors

Although drug abuse causes mental and physical distress, people that struggle with addiction continue to use drugs.

Loss of Power

Even when wanting to stop drug use, addicts don’t have the willpower to do so. This is because they’ve lost complete control of their drug use habits.

Denying or Hiding Drug Use 

When confronted, people that are battling addiction will likely deny their drug use. Thus, to avoid getting caught in a lie and having to explain themselves to others, many addicts will use drugs in private. 

Physical Signs

Physical signs of drug addiction include withdrawal symptoms and overdose side effects. It can be difficult to pinpoint the physical signs of addiction. Still, the physical effects of drug abuse require immediate treatment. substance abuse treatment

Physical signs of a woman overdosing include:

  • Aggression 
  • Agitation
  • Delusions
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drowsiness 
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble walking

Physical withdrawal symptoms of drug abuse include:

  • Confusion 
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea 
  • Seizures
  • Shakiness

Psychological Signs

Drug addiction can take a toll on a person’s psyche due to the changes that it causes to a person’s brain chemistry. Psychological signs of drug abuse include:

  • Anxiousness
  • Changes in personality
  • Emotional and mental withdrawal
  • Inattentiveness
  • Irritability 
  • Lack of motivation
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia

Signs and Symptoms of Different Types of Drug Addiction

Although they are often common, the signs and symptoms that a person will experience due to drug abuse can vary depending on that person’s drug of choice. Below are the different signs and symptoms of some of the most popular drugs that people are addicted to today.

Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is a stimulant drug that’s made from the leaves of the coca plant that’s native to South America. When used as a street drug, cocaine looks like white, crystal powder. People that abuse cocaine usually either rub cocaine against their gums, or smoke, snort, or inject cocaine into their body’s system. Because cocaine increases the amount of dopamine in the brain without recycling it, many people that abuse cocaine become dependent and addicted to the substance.

Signs of cocaine abuse include:

  • Anxiety
  • Dilated pupils
  • Elevated mood
  • Excited speech
  • Feeling invincible
  • Increased energy
  • Paranoia
  • Restlessness

Benzodiazepine Addiction

Benzodiazepines, or benzos, are sedative prescription medications that doctors often prescribe to people with anxiety, seizures, and other medical conditions that may cause them to need to be sedated in some way. Benzodiazepines help treat anxiety and seizures by acting on the central nervous system in a way that relaxes muscles, produces sedative effects, and lowers anxiety levels. Common benzodiazepine prescription medications include Valium and Xanax.

Signs of benzodiazepine abuse include:

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Impaired coordination
  • Trembling
  • Vision problems

Heroin Addiction

Heroin is an opioid drug that’s made from morphine, which is a natural substance that’s taken from the seed pod of various opium poppy plants. Heroin comes in the form of a white or brown powder or a black tar. People that abuse heroin inject, smoke, snort, or sniff it to get it into their body’s system. When people abuse heroin, the substance binds to the opioid receptors in the brain in a way that causes the person that’s abusing the heroin to feel a rush of euphoria. The euphoric feeling that heroin users feel when they take the substance is what makes it so addictive.  

Signs of heroin abuse include:

  • Blue colored lips or nails
  • Constipation
  • Delirium
  • Extreme drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness 
  • Low blood pressure
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Weak pulse

Prescription Drug Addiction

People can abuse almost any type of prescription drug. People that abuse prescription drugs often do so by accident. In fact, most people develop addictions to prescription drugs by taking their medications for a longer period of time than originally prescribed. Many people also develop addictions to prescription drugs because they think that the medications aren’t working fast enough and thus take a higher dosage than they are supposed to. 

Common signs of prescription drug abuse include:

  • Agitation
  • High blood pressure
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Weight loss

Risk Factors for Drug Addiction in Women

Because the male and female bodies are different from one another, the factors that lead men and women into developing a drug addiction sometimes differ from one another. Some of the common risk factors for drug addiction in women are described below.


Drug addiction isn’t caused by weak willpower or lack of morals. The chemical reactions that occur in the brains of people that are suffering from drug addiction are very different from the ones that occur in the brains of people that aren’t addicted to drugs. That explains why some women may smoke cigarettes irregularly only for pleasure, while others need them daily to function.

Genetics is also a major risk factor for drug addiction. Studies show that up to half of the risks of developing addictions to alcohol, nicotine, or other substances are based on genetics. Women with family members that suffer from drug addictions are also more likely to develop a drug addiction themselves.


Environmental factors can also raise the risk factors of drug addiction in women. For teens and children, lack of parental engagement can lead to a greater risk of experimenting with drugs. In fact, young women who experience neglect or abuse from their parents are more likely to use drugs to deal with their emotions.

Peer pressure is another common drug addiction risk factor among young women. Even when it’s not aggressive, pressure from friends can cause young women to start experimenting with drugs, which could then lead to drug addiction. The availability of drugs in the social circles of young women can also often affect the risks of them developing drug addictions. For instance, smoking marijuana in social settings is very popular among high school and college students.

Early Age Drug Use

Another risk factor for drug addiction for women is the age at which the behavior began. In fact, one survey found that young women between the ages of 18 and 24 were more likely to suffer from drug addiction than older women. This is because abusing drugs while young can impact your brain development. This, in turn, can make a person more inclined to developing mental health disorders as he or she ages and the drug addiction progresses.

Drug of Choice

While some drug addictions progress slowly over numerous months or years, others develop more quickly. A person’s drug of choice can also impact how fast drug addiction develops. 

Drugs like heroin, cocaine, and meth tend to be more physically addictive than marijuana or alcohol. Cocaine or heroin users that are experiencing withdrawals also tend to experience more physical pain than those that are experiencing withdrawals from less hard drugs. 

As a result, many cocaine and heroin users take higher doses of the drugs to prevent them from feeling withdrawal symptoms. This is one of the greatest overall drug addiction factors. Unfortunately, continuously increasing your dosage of drug use can lead to severe complications, like an overdose.

Method of Use

Just as certain drugs are more addictive than others, the method that a person chooses to use drugs can also increase the risk of addiction. Drugs that are injected or smoked have more addictive factors than drugs that are swallowed. This is because drugs that are smoked or injected go straight into the bloodstream and brain rather than passing through the liver and other organs that filter them first.

Effects of Drug Addiction on Pregnant Women 

Research shows that pregnant women’s tobacco, alcohol, illicit, or prescription drug use can cause severe health consequences for their infants. This is because many drugs pass easily through the placenta and reach the fetus. As a result, smoking marijuana or tobacco, taking prescription painkillers, or using illegal drugs during pregnancy can triple the chances of having a stillbirth. 

Drug withdrawal symptoms can develop in babies for up to 14 days after their birth. Symptoms of drug withdrawal in newborn babies include:

  • Abnormal sucking reflex
  • Blotchy skin coloring
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive or high-pitched crying
  • Fever
  • Hyperactive reflexes
  • Increased muscle tone
  • Irritability
  • Poor feeding
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures
  • Sleep problems
  • Slow weight gain
  • Stuffy nose and sneezing
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Vomiting

Effects of drug use could be long-term and possibly fatal to babies. As a result, newborn babies that were exposed to drug use could develop the following problems:

  • Congenital disabilities
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature birth
  • Small head circumference
  • Sudden infant death syndrome

The Link Between Drug Addiction and Mental Health

When a person suffers from both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder at the same time, that person has a co-occurring disorder. Suffering from just a substance use disorder is hard enough. Thus, adding a mental illness to the mix makes dealing with drug addiction even more difficult. 

Co-occurring disorders create severe symptoms that disrupt a person’s ability to function at school, work, or home. Suffering from a co-occurring disorder also makes it difficult to associate with others and deal with life. 

Co-occurring disorders can even affect each other. When they do, they can worsen the conditions of both disorders. This is because not treating the mental illness within a co-occurring disorder, will worsen the drug addiction within that co-occurring disorder. This will, in turn, also worsen the severity of the co-occurring disorder’s mental illness.

Dual Diagnosis Drug Addiction Treatment

Dual diagnosis drug addiction treatment occurs when a specialist simultaneously treats a drug addiction and a mental health disorder within one person. Because the drug addiction and mental health disorder within a dual diagnosis are occurring at the same time, one can increase the severity of the other. 

Other medical conditions can also enhance the risk of obtaining a drug addiction. For instance, women who take prescription pain pills after surgery are at risk of drug addiction. An illness or injury can also encourage women to use drugs as a coping mechanism for emotional pain. 

Co-occurring drug abuse and mental health disorders are more common than most people realize. Statistics on co-occurring disorders include:

  • Approximately 50 percent of women with severe mental disorders also struggle with drug abuse.
  • Approximately 53 percent of female drug abusers also have at least one severe mental illness.
  • Of all women diagnosed with a mental illness, 29 percent also abuse drugs to cope with their symptoms.

Drug abuse and mental health disorders will only worsen when left untreated. This is why dual diagnosis substance abuse treatment is so crucial to a successful recovery. 

Here at New Directions For Women, we specialize in dual diagnosis drug addiction treatment. Our patients with co-occurring disorders will receive around the clock treatment for both disorders until each disorder is completely eradicated.

Drug Addiction Treatment 

Addiction treatment programs are different for everyone and are always customized based on the patient’s individual needs and circumstances. The most effective addiction treatment programs ensure that patients are actively involved in each step of the way towards recovery.

Common drug addiction treatments practiced include:

Detox Services

Detox is the next step after the admissions process. Detox helps patients remove all drugs from their bodies’ systems. It’s also the most important step in treating patients with moderate to severe forms of drug addiction.

In some circumstances, detoxing from certain drugs will require medication-assisted therapy to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. During the detox process, medications are often tapered down until the patient becomes no longer physically dependent on addictive substances. This process usually takes about a week.

Residential Treatment

Once a person completes the detox process and is no longer dependent on drugs, the next step is residential or outpatient treatment.

Residential treatment is a 24/7 live-in drug addiction treatment program. During residential treatment, patients reside in a substance-free facility while receiving therapeutic support and medical care for their addictions. Residential drug addiction treatment is the best option for people that are suffering from co-occurring disorders.

Partial Hospitalization Program Treatment

Partial hospitalization program (PHP) treatment is addiction treatment that occurs all day for 7 to 8 hours, five to six days a week. Because PHP treatment occurs all day, some people call it day treatment. 

The difference between partial hospitalization program treatment and residential treatment is that patients of PHPs get to spend the night in their own homes once treatment is over. Residential treatment program patients, on the other hand, must live in the treatment facility that they are attending rehab at. 

Intensive Outpatient Program

Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) are another form of comprehensive substance abuse treatment. These programs offer most of the same treatment and therapy programs as residential and PHP treatment. 

Intensive outpatient treatment only occurs for a few hours a day, three to five days a week. Similar to PHP though, when IOP patients aren’t attending rehab at a treatment facility, they are living in their own homes.  

It’s crucial to understand that an intensive outpatient program doesn’t separate patients from the outside world. Thus, patients of IOPs are put at risk of experiencing triggers that challenge their sobriety. This, combined with the fact that IOP patients only receive a few hours of intensive treatment a day, is why intensive outpatient programs are best suited for people with mild forms of addiction. 

Intensive Sober Living 

Intensive sober living homes are the bridge between a residential treatment center and a return to the outside world. These are a great option for people in substance abuse treatment who need more time strengthening what they learned in rehab. Intensive sober living homes help women in drug addiction treatment reinforce their new healthy habits while still living in a sober and structured environment.

Medication-Assisted Treatment 

During detox and substance abuse treatment, patients are prescribed medications to help them during their recovery. These medications are used for many purposes, like reducing withdrawal symptoms, decreasing cravings, or treating co-occurring disorders. Medications for drug addiction treatment are most effective when combined with a comprehensive substance abuse treatment program.

Get Help Today

If you or a loved one is a woman in need of substance abuse treatment, we here at New Directions for Women can help you. With our comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment programs, our teams of specialists can help get women who are committed to recovery back to living a happy, healthy lifestyle.

Don’t hesitate any longer. Contact New Directions for Women today to receive addiction treatment. We are more than willing to answer any questions that you have about our facility and addiction treatment services.