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Health and Medical

What Are Substance Use Disorder Symptoms?

What Are Substance Use Disorder Symptoms?

Do you feel that you or a loved one is struggling with substance use disorder symptoms? Even though you may feel alone, nearly 21 million people suffer from this challenging condition.

Substance use disorder symptoms involve alcohol, opioids, tobacco, and other substances that affect you or others negatively. No matter what the substance is, continued use can change a person’s brain’s function and structure.

This can lead to intense cravings, learning and memory problems, personality changes, and withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, it is important to recognize the symptoms of substance use disorder to seek help and receive treatment.

Here is all the information you need to know about the various symptoms, especially if you suffer from depression or anxiety or find yourself sleeping too much.

Type of Substance Use Disorder

Keep in mind that many people will usually try one or more substances at the same time. Someone may have no problems drinking and smoking during a night out. The following are the substances that can cause a person to form substance use disorder:

  • Cannabis
  • Alcohol
  • Opioids (such as prescription medications or heroin)
  • Amphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Tobacco
  • Hallucinogens (Phencyclidine and LSD)

It is important to note that a person can depend on two or more substances. For instance, someone who has a heroin use disorder can also be up to 60% dependent on nicotine.

Another person may have 25% alcohol use disorder. Similarly, those with a cocaine use disorder may be nearly 50% more likely to consume nicotine products.

Substance Use Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms of substance use disorder vary from person to person. The symptoms also depend on the severity of use, length of use, and type of substance.

You should also look closely at a person’s personality to determine whether they show symptoms. The most obvious physical symptom would be losing or gaining weight that occurs suddenly.

Have you or your loved one rapidly had a weight loss in a short time? The next symptom is to check whether someone’s pupils are smaller or bigger than normal.

If they have bloodshot eyes, they might still be under the effect of the substance they are using.

Sleeping too much is another sign, along with changes in appetite. A person who spends a lot of energy on toxic substances may need more rest.

They may not eat as much because chewing food can be challenging if someone is under the influence. Alternatively, you should also check a person’s speech.

Are they able to talk clearly? Or are they slurring their words, and you cannot understand them too well? Slurred speech can also go hand-in-hand with impaired coordination.

If someone is too drunk or high, they may not be able to move. Then you may see some tremors in their arms or legs. Another obvious sign is when a person’s physical appearance changes negatively.

This means you may stop grooming yourself, and people will notice that you have not shaved for a while and have overgrown hair.

Other symptoms related to health and hygiene are a runny nose and unusual body odor or bad breath. If the person is not doing their laundry often, you will find that their clothes smell bad.

Psychological Symptoms

Some of the main psychological symptoms of substance use disorder are anxiousness, fearfulness, and paranoia. Think about whether substance use disorder is affecting someone’s personality.

Is the person a lot more different lately than before they started abusing substances? This should be an easy question to answer if you know the person well.

At times, the person affected by substance use disorder can also feel spaced out while suffering from a lack of motivation. Even doing basic chores around the house or looking after themselves can seem like a great deal.

It will become easy to neglect grooming habits if you always feel excessively tired. Alternatively, you may also have sudden surges of energy, restlessness, or feelings of mental instability.

It is not necessary that you always feel energetic or tired. It can go either way, depending on your mood, personality, and the type of substances involved. A person struggling with substance use disorder will also get angry at every little thing.

Behavioral Symptoms

Behavioral symptoms may be tricky to spot unless you know the affected person very well. For instance, you should be able to notice if they are acting suspiciously or keeping secrets from you.

Ask yourself if the person is experiencing problems in their relationships due to their condition. Are you in touch with other people in their lives to ask about these issues?

Then you should keep an eye out to see if they are using more of the substance than usual. Is the person drinking more bottles of wine than you can count? Are they neglecting their family and friendships or other duties at home and work to consume their substances?

Do you see a change in their activities or hobbies? If someone used to enjoy playing sports and working out a lot before, but then you see them lying on the couch all day, this can be a worrying sign of substance use disorder.

Impulsive Behavior

People may also use the substance under conditions that are not safe. For instance, an impulsive person may have sex without a condom or drive under the influence.

They may also use syringes that are not sterile. Patients under the influence stop caring about themselves and may not be aware of their actions affecting others. If they are aware and feel guilty about it, they might be driven to consume more substances to numb those negative feelings.

Then they can end up having financial problems where they may resort to stealing or asking for money. For example, an alcoholic may not be able to resist stealing alcohol if they cannot afford to fund their habits without outside help.

The person may binge and no longer engage in activities they previously enjoyed. Finally, you will see them still abusing substances even though they have poor health and should prioritize looking after themselves.

How Is Substance Use Disorder Diagnosed?

If a person needs to get diagnosed with substance use disorder, their doctor will start with a quick screening. This may be a series of questions followed by a comprehensive evaluation.

Then the patient may be referred to a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, psychiatrist, or psychologist. The primary screening questions will involve asking the person if they have continued to use drugs or alcohol longer than they intended.

Then they will be asked if they have neglected their usual responsibilities due to substance abuse. The doctor can also ask if the person has taken any steps to cut back or quit the substance in question.

Many people will answer these questions truthfully, but there is always a risk of dishonesty in covering their habits. Finally, a doctor will be able to tell if the person has found themselves preoccupied with the thought of using substances, especially if they use it to cope with emotional pain or boredom.

Functions Affected

The best thing to do is to keep an eye out for the abovementioned signs to determine when someone needs urgent help. The first thing you will notice is them going through withdrawal symptoms.

This is because when levels of a substance to which the person has grown used to drop below a certain level, they can experience physical symptoms depending on the substance.

The person can have trembling, cravings, constipation, sweats, seizures, and mood swings that can turn violent if they do not get their fix. The next is changes in appetite.

This is because some substances can heavily affect a person’s appetite. Some drugs can make someone feel as though their jaw is wired shut, thus making them less hungry.

Someone too drunk or high may not even realize if they have not eaten all day. Then you also have substances like marijuana that can greatly increase someone’s appetite while cocaine kills it.

If someone is using too many smoking substances like crack or tobacco, they may have incurable respiratory diseases like lung cancer. Other illicit drugs that need to be injected can cause arteries and veins or limb damage problems.

In some cases, they can also lead to an infection where a person can lose their limb. Drinking every day can cause chronic liver problems that may not be obvious at the start. But you will see their symptoms become more apparent as their disorder progresses further.

Lack of Sleep

Sleeplessness or insomnia is one of the most common symptoms of withdrawal from substances. If a person uses illicit stimulants like ecstasy or speed, they may feel invincible without sleep.

Then they end up with a disrupted sleep cycle. This is because they most likely will stay up for a few nights to go out to parties while under the influence of their chosen substance. This can negatively affect their work-life or daily routine at home.

When this occurs, you will notice a change in the person’s appearance. This is because they will always appear tired and disheveled, as though they have just woken up with a massive hangover.

Until they use the substance again, they will feel as though they have no energy left in their body. Tiredness on this intense level can make a person delirious enough to neglect their personal hygiene, including doing their laundry.

Furthermore, the situation will only worsen because people increase their tolerance when they take the substance over time. For instance, someone who usually takes one ecstasy pill to have a good time may need to take two the next time if they go partying two nights in a row.

Otherwise, they will not achieve the same effect, and the withdrawal symptoms will kick in. With so many symptoms, it is important to note that substance use disorder can impact every individual. Therefore, you should pay close attention to signs and symptoms to know if someone needs your help.


If someone you are close to has reduced social activities and is exhibiting a desire to quit alcohol or tobacco, this is a good sign. It means that they are ready to get help and will cooperate.

Otherwise, it can be an uphill battle to convince them to seek support. It can be overwhelming for many people to confront their fears and admit themselves to the right facility.

Check out Mockingbird Hill Recovery Center to know more about how facilities treat substance abuse, disorder patients. The hard part is confronting the person you are concerned about to let them know that they have a problem that requires medical treatment.

Many people may outright deny this fact and get irritated by your involvement. A substance use disorder can also lead to continued use despite other effects on a person’s health.

Even if they stop using for a while to keep others off their back, there is always a risk of relapsing. Then the person may be obsessed with getting hold of the substances, which could make them partake in dangerous activities.

For example, someone addicted to heroin could try to steal money or fight someone to score a hit. Substance use disorder can easily lead to problems with the law that can severely jeopardize the person’s ability to gain employment after recovery.

Find the Right Help Today

Now that you know all about substance use disorder symptoms and how to recognize signs in yourself or loved ones, it is time to find the right doctor to help you get your life back.

Substance use disorder has many symptoms that damage a person’s everyday activities, social life, and health.

Therefore, it is necessary to seek help to avoid dealing with something much worse down the line. If you enjoyed reading this substance abuse guide, check out some of our other posts for more information.

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