Drug Use Disorder: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 9/10/2019

Medical professionals now refer to drug abuse and addiction as substance or drug use disorder. A self-destructive pattern of using a substance that leads to significant problems and distress characterizes this condition. Drug abuse is a very common problem. Typically, there is increasing tolerance to the substance being abused.

Symptoms and signs of drug abuse vary widely and depend upon the substance that is being used. Symptoms can include aggression, irritability, personality changes, mood changes including depression, slurred speech, tremors, poor physical coordination, weight changes, and problems sleeping. Other associated symptoms can include paranoia, secretive behaviors, unkempt appearance, neglecting responsibilities, and fearfulness.

Cause of drug use disorder

The cause of drug use disorder is not well understood, but it likely involves both genetic and environmental factors.

Other drug use disorder symptoms and signs

  • Continuing Drug Use Despite Knowing It's Harming You
  • Engaging in Risky Behavior
  • Experiencing Strong, Consuming Urges to Take the Drug
  • Failed Attempts to Stop Using the Drug
  • Neglecting Work, Social, and Recreational Activities
  • Spending Significant Amounts of Time Acquiring the Drug
  • Stealing
  • Taking More of the Drug to Achieve the Same High
  • Withdrawal Symptoms Upon Stopping the Drug


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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.