First Warning Signs of Addiction

Detecting the First Warning Signs of Addiction to Drugs and Alcohol

Addiction to drugs and alcohol is not a sudden and immediate occurrence.  There is no doubt that for some individuals, the first introduction to drugs or alcohol may be such a euphoric experience that it lures them to use again. However, according to scientific evidence; at this time use occurs because of volition rather addiction since it is the consistent and repetitious use of drugs and alcohol that impairs brain functions and cause negative patterns of behavior.  As a result, long before the first warning signs of addiction  to drugs and alcohol becomes evident, a number of mental and physical changes have already been occurring.  

Studies into the process of addiction reveal that pleasure registered from all substances of abuse produces a distinct signature impact in the brain. So in essence, no matter which substance of abuse you become addicted to, addressing the problem at or before the first warning signs of addiction to drugs and alcohol manifest is the most beneficial approach.

According to neuroscientists; substances of abuse releases neurotransmitters called Dopamine in a cluster of nerve cells in the brain that are located beneath the cerebral cortex.  The effect of Dopamine to produce feelings of pleasure is so great that it has been dubbed the pleasure center of the brain by neuroscientists. As such, repeated use of these pleasure producing substances typically occurs before the signs and symptoms of drug addiction begin to manifest. And, as the amount of drugs and alcohol consumed increase, the more dopamine is released into the brain which naturally intensifies the desire to use again.  Since drugs and alcohol provides the most reliable release of dopamine, herein lies the problem of addiction.  For this reason, the psychological symptoms of addiction that drive the physical responses needs to be addressed when treating drug and alcohol addiction symptoms.

Warning Signs of Alcohol Addiction

Enjoyment is an initial and critical warning sign that alcohol can present a problem of addiction in the future. Research outcomes indicate that individuals who enjoy the initial taste and effects of alcohol can be more easily drawn into habituated use that ultimately leads to addiction. The effects, even more so than the taste of alcohol, is especially problematic for people seeking to soothe the stress of psychological or emotional issues.

Repeated episodes of binge drinking or excessive drinking over a short period of time is another popular first warning sign or forerunner to alcoholism. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that quickly brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or above.

It is true that most people who binge drink may not initially be dependent on alcohol and only consume excessive amounts of alcohol for recreational purposes.  However, binge drinking increase tolerance levels quickly which may produce craving for alcohol between binge sessions. Since alcohol abuse damage the body on many levels, even a single binge session should be recognized as a threat to long term sobriety. As binge drinking becomes more regular; i.e. every weekend; the first warning signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction may begin to manifest such as:

  1. Increased focus and eagerness to drink
  2. The need to drink more to get the same effects
  3. Using alcohol to assuage symptoms such as feelings of anxiety, shakes and chills, irritability and depression to name a few.
  4. Once you start to drink, you find it extremely difficult to stop.

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction

  • A compelling desire to use drugs is indicative of a growing dependence or first warning sign that the person is at risk of becoming addicted.
  • If drug use occurs despite fears of addiction, this signifies loss of control which is a symptom that drugs have already begun to impair rational thinking processes.
  • If the initial dose of the drug has been gradually increasing in order to achieve the same effects.
  • When the use of drugs has become more important than the well-being of the user or their loved ones.
  • If drug use is resulting in risky behavior such as stealing, going to unsafe environments to purchase drugs, sexual promiscuity, driving or taking care of children while under the influence and others.
  • Evolutionary negative changes in appearance through neglect.
  • Development of health issues as a direct result of chronic use of drugs.
  • A recurrence of symptoms of withdrawal if normal patterns of drug use is interrupted for any reason. These may include but are not limited to:
  1. Nausea and vomiting
  2. Flu like symptoms
  3. Severe anxiety and depression
  4. Suicidal attempts
  5. Sleep disturbances
  • The compulsive and uncontrollable continued use of drugs despite serious negative consequences such as loss of income, broken relationships, homelessness and repeated incarcerations.

Denial is one of the greatest deterrents to addressing the  to drugs and alcohol. In most cases, family members are overly cautious about confronting their loved one with the problem for fear of their reaction or pushing them away.  As such, getting the support of family members or talking to a professional at a drug rehabilitation facility can help provide effective support.


If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.