Early recognition of the signs of addiction is vital in order to stop the slide of a person into a deepening disease. It is estimated that 50% of problem drinkers remain undetected and therefore untreated.

Signs of Alcohol and Drug Addiction

  • Preoccupation (more time is spent getting hold of alcohol and drugs, using them and recovering from their effects). The person’s life revolves around the drug.
  • Craving: The need to drink or take drugs becomes more pressing, more urgent.
  • Secrecy: They won’t admit where they were or who they were with,
  • Change in their social circle and in their involvement,
  • Neglecting their appearance,
  • Broke: Always asking for money
  • Unease at social events without the drug.
  • Effort: Going to considerable effort to obtain drink/drugs.

Some behaviour is mainly associated with alcohol addiction:

  • Drinking in the mornings or waiting until lunch to seek a drink.
  • Drinking on their own. Alcohol on their breath obvious before a social engagement.
  • Memory blackouts occur and there is marked personality change with depression, anxiety isolation and loss of self-esteem.

More Symptoms of Addiction

Hiding the evidence

People addicted to alcohol and drugs become skilled at concealing the signs of their addiction. The addict’s denial of the problem develops in response to deepening guilt and shame surrounding the disease of addiction.

Attempts to cut-back

Some alcoholics/drug users express a persistent desire to quit and make unsuccessful efforts to cut back and control e.g. switching from beer to wine or to low alcohol drinks; or drinking only on certain days.

At times, consumption of the drug or of alcohol may stop for a period of time but inevitably they will go back to using again.

Reduced activities

Neglecting their appearance and failing to keep social appointments with friends.

Problems at work

  • Turning up late for work,
  • Being unreliable,
  • Arriving at meetings smelling of alcohol,
  • Failing to turn up to business appointments,
  • Drinking at lunch,
  • Erratic performance,
  • Risk taking.

Drinking despite health problems

The person continues to drink, despite the knowledge of having a persistent physical or psychological problem caused or exacerbated by alcohol.


Increased tolerance indicates physiological adaptation by the brain to the presence of the drug. The person must consume more frequently, more rapidly and in increasing amounts to get the desired effect.