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The Profile of an Addict

The Profile of an Addict: How Can You Identify an Addiction?

Understanding the profile of an addict can help you recognize if you or a loved one has an addiction. There are many different types of addictions, but it's not always possible to tell if someone is suffering from one. Whether you are concerned about your own substance abuse problem or someone else's, educating yourself is the key.

It is possible that you have been noticing some behaviors that are unsettling. Maybe you have been noticing some physical characteristics that cause you to suspect an addiction is present. Either way, what you need is answers and the right information.

What is the Definition of an Addiction?

Defining addiction is so important; especially if you think you may have a problem with drugs. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), an addiction is a disease. When someone has an addiction, that person feels an ongoing need to use some type of substance. The substance of choice is usually something that is harmful. However, it produces pleasure when it's being used.

An addiction is a relapsing condition. This simply means that it's difficult to stop using it for a long period of time. People with addictions will experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using. These may be physical or mental, and they tend to get worse as time goes on.

It's common for people with addictions to not realize they have them. They often feel as though they are in complete control over their drug use. In their minds, using drugs is a choice they make. This is actually a form of denial, which is a classic sign of addiction.

It's important to remember that addiction is a disease. Because of this, it must be treated like one.

What is the Definition of Drug Abuse?

It's also important to define drug abuse, which is very different from addiction. Drug abuse indicates that someone is using drugs in an inappropriate way. When the drug is stopped, there are no withdrawal symptoms present. This is because an addiction has not yet formed. Some examples of drug abuse include:

  • Taking too many prescription pain pills in one day.
  • Using any type of illegal drug (such as heroin or cocaine) even one time.
  • Participating in a night of binge drinking with friends.
  • Taking a prescription drug for the purpose of getting high.
  • Using any type of prescription medication without a prescription from a doctor.

Drug abuse is very serious, and it should be taken as seriously as an addiction. Although the two are not the same, drug abuse can lead to addiction. In some cases, it can even lead to addiction after the very first use. The longer someone abuses drugs, the higher the chance of addiction becomes.

Understanding the Signs of Drug Abuse

Because drug abuse and drug addiction are frequently confused, it can be difficult to know the signs of abuse. When someone is abusing a drug, the physical signs of drug use might not be easy to notice. However, there are many behavioral signs that can be observed. Some of these include:

  • Frequent bursts of anger or agitation
  • Extreme changes in personality
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Becoming depressed
  • Spending time with different types of friends
  • Changing one's habits
  • Changing one's life priorities
  • Having financial problems
  • Becoming involved in criminal activities

If you have noticed these behaviors, you or a loved one may be abusing drugs. Intervening now can save you from a lot of problems later on. After an addiction has formed, it's much harder to stop using.

Are You Abusing Drugs or Addicted to Drugs?

It can be hard to tell the difference between drug abuse and drug addiction. If you're concerned about your own drug use, taking a drug addiction quiz can help. The quiz will give you a series of questions, which you should answer honestly. At the end, you'll be able to get your results.

For family members who are concerned about a loved one's drug use problem, another quiz is available. This quiz will help you to better understand your family member's drug use patterns.

It is so important for you to know what your relationship with drugs is. If you find that you're only abusing them, it's not too late to stop. If you find that you're addicted, you can learn ways to get the help you need to stop using.

Physical Characteristics of a Drug Addict Explained

As a drug addiction starts to take hold, there are a number of physical signs that can be observed. It is important to note that each drug has different physical addiction signs. You may notice many of these, or just a few of them.

Some common physical signs that you are a drug addict include:

  • Having red, or bloodshot eyes.
  • Having glassy eyes.
  • Having pupils that are larger or smaller than normal.
  • Watery eyes.
  • Having vision problems.
  • Rashes around the nose and mouth, or elsewhere on the body.
  • Having frequent headaches.
  • Becoming nauseous, with or without vomiting.
  • Excessive sniffling or coughing
  • Hot or cold sweats.
  • Needle marks on the arms.
  • Experiencing changes to your appetite. Addicts may want to eat more or less than normal.
  • Suddenly losing or gaining weight.
  • Losing interest in personal grooming habits.
  • Having bad breath.
  • Body odor, or bad smells on clothing.
  • Slurring your speech.
  • Feeling shaky throughout your body.
  • Having problems with keeping your balance.

You may be someone who regularly uses drugs. Or, you could be a family member of a drug user. Either way, if you notice the above physical signs, there is probably an addiction present.

The Behavioral Signs of Addiction

Some of the physical symptoms of addiction can take a while to become obvious. For this reason, it's often easier to identify an addiction by behaviors. Addictive behavior can be incredibly frustrating for family members. However, it can also be frustrating for the addicted individual too. Families and addicts both often fail to realize how powerful addiction can be.

It's important to understand that the behaviors of addicts are driven by their need for drugs. They often don't even understand why they do what they do. It is vital to identify what these behaviors are if you're concerned about a possible addiction.

Common behavioral traits of addicts include:

Excessive Lying

Drug addicts will often lie about anything and everything. They have to lie about where money went when they used it to purchase drugs. They have to lie about where they were when they were buying drugs. They have to lie about whether they used drugs or not. Actually, the more addicted a person is, the more he or she will feel the need to lie.

The worst part is that many addicts become very skilled at lying well. It can almost be as if they create a new identity for themselves. Over time, as this behavior continues, they may even learn to believe the lies they tell. These lies become their new truth.

Fortunately, as times goes on, these lies will eventually catch up to each other. However, by the time that happens, the addict has probably done a great deal of damage to him or herself. Relationships have most likely suffered as a result of the dishonesty. The individual's health may be at risk as well.


Manipulation is a key characteristic of someone with a drug addiction. Addicts quickly learn how to manipulate the ones they love, and they do it well. Family and friends want the addict to be happy, even though they can see the destructive power of the drugs. Because of this, they find themselves stuck in the manipulation.

Some common things addicts will say to manipulate their loved ones include:

  • “You're only jealous because I'm enjoying life and you're not.”
  • “You never want me to be happy.”
  • “I'm only this way because of you. It's all your fault.”
  • “If you loved me, you'd see that I need this.”
  • “You never try to understand what I'm going through or how I feel.”
  • “I promise I'll start doing better. I just need to get through this rough time first.”
  • “I'll start going to church when things get better in my life.”
  • “I'm not going to be using drugs forever. It's just for a little while.”

The above statements are meant to serve a few purposes. They bring guilt upon the family and friends. They also make them place their hope in empty promises. Addicts are desperate to keep using, and not experience withdrawal. That means they're willing to do and say anything to get what they want.

Criminal Activity

Not every person who is addicted to drugs is participating in criminal activity. However, for someone who has been addicted for a while, it is fairly common. Eventually, the money for drugs will run out. They may have sold most of their possessions. They're not working, so they have no way of getting money to buy more.

Once this happens, people will often start doing illegal things. They may steal money from a friend or relative. They may start making or selling drugs to fund their habits. They may steal from stores or from strangers on the street. They may even steal identities, cars or shoplift from stores to pay for drugs.

There are other types of crimes addicts frequently commit too. Driving under the influence is a common one. Prostitution is also common.

Refusing to Take the Blame

Once an addiction takes hold, the most responsible person can quickly become the most irresponsible person. Addicts learn how to shift blame very fast. No matter what happens, it's never the addict's fault. For example:

  • If an addict is fired from his job, it's the boss's fault.
  • If an addict is involved in an accident, he is the victim.
  • If an addict doesn't follow through with a promise, someone else is to blame.
  • If an addict isn't able to complete an activity, someone close to him will be blamed for it.
  • If an addict gets behind on bills, he blames someone else for his financial problems.

A drug addiction is very good at stealing away any sense of responsibility. Unfortunately, no matter how much the family begs, addicts will generally stay in this pattern of behavior.

Becoming Abusive

Both physical and emotional abuse are common among addicts. This can occur when shifting blame moves to the next level. As addictions progress, addicts often become delusional in their thinking. They may start to think that people are a threat to them, or to their drug use. They may even see them as dangerous. Oftentimes, this presents as violent or emotionally abusive behaviors.

It's usually those closest to the addict that bear the brunt of this abuse. Husbands may physically or emotionally abuse their wives. This behavior has a secondary goal. It also works to shut down any attention on the real problem, which is the addiction.

Have you noticed any of the above behavioral patterns in your own life?

Personality Traits that are Common of Drug Addicts

When someone is addicted to drugs, his or her personality starts to change dramatically. This usually becomes obvious in certain personality traits that weren't there before. Some of these personality traits might include:

  • Becoming impulsive, and looking for ways to be happy in the moment.
  • Compulsive behaviors, such as experiencing an irresistible urge to use drugs.
  • Being proud of being different than other people.
  • Having problems dealing with stress.
  • Having a low self-esteem, which can sometimes lead to depression or anxiety.
  • Not having any patience.
  • Living in denial that there is a problem with drugs.

Do You Have a Family Member Who Meets the Definition of an Addict?

Perhaps as you've been reading this, you've noticed many of these signs in someone you love. You know this person is using drugs, and you're quite sure they meet the definition of an addict. The question is, what can you do?

Your first step should always be to talk about the problem. Maybe you've tried to talk about the drug addiction with your family member before. Nothing you say has worked. Or, perhaps you've been too scared to speak up and say anything.

If you're not sure how to bring it up, choose a time when your loved one is sober. Express that you're concerned, and you want to help him or her get into treatment. If nothing changes after that conversation, it's time to take the next step.

What Should Family Members of Addicts do to Get Help?

Intervention services are a great tool that you can use to get your loved one into drug treatment. An intervention is overseen by a professional who will walk you through the process. It will involve a meeting with your loved one and other friends and family members. You will all have a chance to share your desire for drug rehab. Your loved one will get the opportunity to get professional treatment right away.

It's also important for you to remember to take care of yourself as well. Al-Anon is an organization you should consider joining. They have support groups for the families of drug addicts. You'll meet others during these meetings who will encourage you and support you. They know what you're going through because they've been there themselves.

Getting Help for a Drug Addiction Right Away

It's possible that you've gone through the above information, and you can't help but notice many similarities to yourself. You recognize that you're an addict in need of help. However, you're not sure where to go from here or what to do next.

The first step is to find out if you truly are an addict. This is best accomplished by talking with a professional at a drug rehab facility. Once you talk with someone, that person will be able to give you an accurate initial assessment. Many times, this can even be done over the phone. It can be so helpful to personally share your drug use history with someone in the addiction treatment field.

Once you receive an assessment, you'll find out what type of drug treatment you need. This will enable to you to know where to go from here. You may find that you're in need of detox services and inpatient treatment. You may find that you're appropriate for an outpatient drug rehab. Regardless of what the recommendation is, following it can result in your recovery.

At Northpoint Recovery, we've been able to provide assistance to so many people with addictions. Many of them weren't sure if they had actual addictions when they first contact us. Our staff members are caring, sensitive and experienced. You can rely on them to point you in the right direction.

Do you need to talk with us about your addiction? Or, do you have a family member who may be addicted to drugs? Either way, we can help. Please contact us today.