Symptoms of Addictive Disorders

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Addictive disorders involve many co-existing symptoms that vary in number and intensity.

Person thinking of smoking with a need to consume

Urgent need to consume, to self-administer the substance (or various substances) to which the person has become addicted. The word “craving” is used to talk about the persistent desire.

Person smoking next to another person

Difficulty controlling consumption. This leads to excessive consumption and, at the same time, produces negative consequences with regard to family, work, and social situations, as well as physical and mental health. The person continues to take the substance despite being aware of these problems, which are recurrent or persistent. Attempts are made to reduce or control the use of the substance, but this is not possible.

Drug allergy

Consumption of other addictive substances due to the need to achieve a greater effect.

Person smoking next to another person

Rebound effect. When a person uses a particular substance to calm down, once its effects wear off, they often feel more nervous than before they took it, so they have to take it again.

Cigars with upward pointing arrow indicating tolerance

Tolerance. This appears when more of the substance is used progressively to achieve an effect. The same quantities of substance clearly have less effect with continued consumption.

Anxious person with a bead of sweat on the face and other symbols of withdrawal symptoms

Abstinence syndrome. The brain gets used to working with a substance so it often needs a new dose to attain a specific effect or avoid unpleasant symptoms like anguish, stress, or moodiness. This appears when the substance is no longer taken, and the symptoms can be relieved by taking the substance again.

Two different sides of the face representing behavioural disturbances or mood swings

Alteration of behaviour because the person is under the effects of the substance or because they miss it. Depending on the type of drug, there may be various behavioural alterations: aggressiveness, violent behaviour, strong apathy, hallucinations, delusions, and so on.

Person with sweat, nausea and vomiting next to a toilet

Intoxication. This is caused by excessive consumption of the substance and decreases psychological and behavioural performance. Acute intoxication may lead to coma and death. Chronic intoxication, which is due to regular and excessive consumption over a prolonged period of time, can cause, among other things, digestive, neurological, and cardiovascular disorders.

Person with a deviated head symbolising a change at the brain level

Changes in the brain. The person changes the way they think; their opinions, attitudes and motivation increasingly favour consumption. Many people who develop an addiction think that they can control their consumption of the substance and that, therefore, they will not develop an addiction. Denial. They do not see the risks and problems of addiction, only that it is gratifying.

A person shifting priorities from leisure to addiction

Changing priorities. They stop doing important and enjoyable things, like leisure activities, so that they can obtain the substance. Much of their time is devoted to obtaining or consuming the substance. The substance is their top priority, above health, family, work, and money.

Person on the ground injecting heroin during relapse

Relapse. It is very difficult not to take the substance in certain situations and the first use often leads to a relapse. This can occur in a person who has not used for months, and the lack of control can be even greater than before.

Substantiated information by:

Antoni Gual Solé
Clara Oliveras Salvà
Hugo López Pelayo
Magalí Andreu
Mireia Graell Gabriel
Pablo Barrio Giménez
Silvia Mondón

Published: 16 September 2019
Updated: 16 September 2019

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