Skip to main content

How Does a Drug Addict Think, Feel, and Behave While Actively Addicted?

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Rebecca loves sharing what she knows about alternative medicine, health, frugal living, fun, animals, and how to live a better life!

Drug addict

Drug addiction throws people in states of dispair

Drug addiction throws people in states of dispair


Types of drugs

Drug addiction is not glamorous, despite the media trying to portray it that way. Substances won't make your life more fancy or thrilling, they won't gift you with superhuman powers. The type of drug a user abuses really doesn't matter. Although individual drugs affect people differently, addiction behaviors are usually the same, regardless of the drug(s) used.

The main difference between one substance vs. another is how lethal they are. What's bad vs what's not so bad is irrelevant to a user. Drug addicts often abuse multiple substances. Some drugs will kill you quick, or wreck the life you knew beforehand very fast. Others (quickly-meth, coke, other speed) rot you from the inside out, slowly eating all you were from the inside out until there is nothing left. All of them change the way you perceive, feel, or view life, even if positive or negative. Drug and alcohol abuse destroys someone; body, mind, and spirit.

Most drugs can cause psychosis, temporary or permanent. The main ones that really distort your thinking and cognitive function are speed (meth especially), inhalants, alcohol, heroin, and hallucinogens The variety of drugs available these days is a frightening smorgasbord. And the addict you’re watching will display different physical symptoms depending on whether they're on booze, speed, pills, inhalants, or other substances.

Over-doses can result, sometimes without much notice, or other times users can abuse drugs for a very long time and die slowly, with the quality of life decreasing much more rapidly than a non-user.

But how often do you see an 85-year-old coke addict? Not often. Because drug addicts typically die young. In 2014 the average age of a heroin addict dying from overdose was between 30-45 years of age. Our bodies can only endure so many toxins before it begins to fail.

Heart attack signs





Some movies & shows that portray an addicts behavior

Movies glamorize drug use. And although initially, it may be great fun, they fail to show you the aftermath of a serious addict. Illness, crime, sickness, over-doses, financial devastation, legal problems, broken-families, homelessness, community problems, disability, and worst-case scenario- death. Addiction affects everyone it comes in contact with. They say for every addict, 4 people are emotionally, physically or financially affected.

These drug-related movies may be entertaining, but their endings give a pretty clear illustration of the path drug addiction can lead to.

Here is a shortlist of flicks:

  • Spun...about meth
  • Dazed and Confused...about pot
  • Breaking Bad...about meth
  • Blow...about cocaine
  • Trainspotting..about heroin
  • Requiem for a Dream...about heroin
  • The Doors...about LSD and pot
  • Rush...about cocaine, pills, heroin, alcohol

Reality about alcohol abuse

Drugs and physical symptoms

Speed-cocaine, meth, uppers-profuse sweating, body odor, animated behavior, becoming obsessed with repetitive tasks, picking and scratching, staying up for days, anxiety, dilated pupils, unable to sit still, aggression, violence, paranoia, anorexia. Long term use will most likely result in severe weight loss, looking like a zombie, major tooth decay, complete destruction of life, possible death and over-dose.

Inhalants-blood shot eyes, foul body odor, black-outs, passing-out, seizures, discolored fingers or teeth, "maniacal laughter over nothing", brain damage, oxygen loss, coma, death.

Marijuana-blood shot eyes, stench, coughing, short term memory loss, elevated mood, hunger, excessive thirst. Marijuana is the least harmful of drugs to use, but still causes lung damage when inhaled and potential memory loss with chronic use.

Scroll to Continue

Pills/Opiates/Heroin-various-behavior could appear as all above depending on what is used. Appearing groggy or in a "stupor", nodding out, mood swings, anxiety, extreme withdrawal when discontinued use, night sweats, cold/flu symptoms. Pulmonary Edema. Over-dose, coma, even death. Liver and lung diseases are common.

Alcohol-stench, lack of coordination physically, unable to string sentences together, mood swings, anxiety, headaches, dehydration, depression, sweating, shaking, unpredictable demeanor, violence, black-outs, passing-out, vomiting, seizure, alcohol-related accidents, liver disease, coma, poisoning, even death.

Hallucinogens- LSD, Mushrooms, etc... dilated pupils, vomiting, odd behavior, increased heart rate and blood pressure, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, distortion of time, feelings of fear, death, terror, or grandiosity. Visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations. A typical "trip" lasts 8-16 hours, these drugs are not physically addictive.

You're friend Crystal

What does crystal meth look like?

Foundation for a drug free world

Don't turn yourself into Steve Buscemi!


A possible view of the addicts background

People dabble with drugs for a variety of reasons, and not everyone comes from a destructive childhood, but it is common. People will try drugs for various reasons, including; self-medicating for depression or other untreated mental illness, curiosity & experimentation, stress from life, boredom, to be social, to fit in, to seem grown-up, and to rebel. Sometimes people even become addicted to medications prescribed for a valid health condition, or pain management.

One thing that appears to be a trend with heavy users is their upbringing, background, and family history.

You may notice addicts (a lot of times) have had a tougher childhood than average, but again, not always.

Often they are children of addicts themselves, alcoholism has been proven to be inherited. Addicts also see adults they should model after and trust abusing drugs during childhood. Children do what they see. Monkey see monkey do.

At very young ages they are typically put into positions that require adult coping skills since they don’t have coping skills of adults they do not process what they see and deal with in normal ways. They may have been sexually abused, neglected, or physically abused, and are left to emotionally navigate big issues by themselves without a fully developed brain. They may have to be care-givers to parents or siblings. These are responsibilities that shouldn't have fallen on their shoulders. Depression and acting out frequently ensues. In teen years, they may struggle with education, hang around with the “wrong crowd”, make chronic bad decisions, get involved in body modification (tattoos, piercings, sadomasochism), be promiscuous and get pregnant, or have issues with juvenile detention or the law. Because of their turbulent childhoods, they don’t focus on school, playing, sports and learning about life the way a child in a “normal” household would. Since “normal” is subjective and blurry anymore the definition of what I mean is having parental involvement, routines, rules, living in a relatively stable environment, seeing their parents involvement in positive things; community programs, volunteering, hobbies, working and tending to responsibilities, going to church or other forms of spirituality and worship. Homes that are full of abuse, neglect, broken, lack of guidance, immorality, and parental absence, are more likely to produce children that grow into adulthood and use or abuse drugs.

Most often drug addicts enter adulthood ill-equipped to deal with the demands of adult life. The coping skills they applied to live from birth-25 don’t work anymore, so they turn to drugs.

What behaviors may show up with teens abusing drugs?

  • Lying
  • Manipulation
  • Stealing
  • Running away, being out during hours they should be home
  • Hanging with the “wrong crowd”
  • Chronic bad decision making or clear disregard to consequences and rules
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal from hobbies, friends, and family
  • Sadomasochism
  • Detentions, expulsion from school, getting arrested
  • Promiscuity
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Sleep disturbances (over or under sleeping)
  • Mood swings
  • Violent and aggressive behavior

An active addict in adulthood

Besides the health consequences for addicts, families, and communities, an adult addict can usually be spotted by behavior. There is an old saying "how can you tell when an addict is lying?" "Their lips are moving". The addicted brain will stop at nothing to get what it feels it needs to be "normal". Adult addicts are skilled in the art of lying and manipulation. You should never believe an addict. They will lie, steal, cheat, and do whatever they need to do to get their drugs. They will blame people that try to help them.

When someone becomes addicted to a drug, that drug will most likely take precedence over everything else in the user's life, including work, children, their own health, morality, judgment, the list is endless. Most of the time addicts abuse multiple drugs at various times. A benzo will counter the nasty effects of speed, a drink takes the edge off, some pot helps give a "pick me up", or the addict you know may have a preference to a specific "drug family". By drug family, I mean downers, uppers, speed, etc...

Typical drug addict behavior in adults includes, but is not limited to;

  • Severe mood swings, extreme anger, depression, blaming
  • lying
  • stealing
  • cheating
  • DUI's, legal problems, car accidents, loss of transportation
  • Homelessness
  • Prostitution
  • Disheveled appearance
  • They may appear "slow" or "stupid"
  • Unable to maintain or procure employment
  • Unable to maintain a residence or home, pay bills, or pay rent or a mortgage
  • Severe weight loss or weight gain
  • Dilated pupils, excessive sweating, excessive excitement, animation, talking about non-sense, unable to control their bodies, foul body odor, bloodshot eyes (depending on the drug)
  • Failing and strained relationships or marriages
  • Child abuse or neglect to their own children, stepchildren, foster, etc...
  • Loss of custodial rights to said children
  • Finding drug paraphernalia near them, in their home, car
  • Unpredictable crazy behavior
  • Broken promises (they promise to stop and get help, but don't)

How does a drug addict think?

Drugs damage the brain and distorts how someone views the world or other people, they may be paranoid or think everyone is out to get them, change them, control them. The frontal lobes of their brain will not function correctly, this is the main area of the brain that controls morality and judgement. They often act immature, and "don't make sense", they can be consumed with fatigue and depression when crashing or coming down. Their main thought will be getting the next high. Addiction is a disease and more often than not progressive if not halted.

The addict is not your loved one. Until they eliminate the drug abuse, you may not even recognize them. In a way they are possessed. The brain cannot make rational decisions, or function the way it needs to when it is constantly assaulted with poison, toxins, and malnutrition.

So how do they think? Well...usually they don't, or all behavior is centered around themselves. They usually have a high level of drama in their lives, constant "problems" they need help with, they call or come around when they need help or rescued, when you don't do what they want you are labeled as the problem and blamed for the mess they've created. They don't need you if you don't help how they demand! They push you away, tell you to leave them alone. Do not expect your addict to think in the future. They live in the "now" and in an extreme, often, unhealthy way. Often they are not concerned with next week, or sometimes even the next hour. They are unreliable, will miss appointments, and will let you down, even if their best intention is not to do so. You have to remember until they get some sober time under their belt, they will do crazy things. Often making you feel like the crazy one.

Deep on the inside they are most likely over run with guilt, depression, lack of coping skills, and full of emotions they don't know how to deal with without drugs. They know they've messed up their lives and sometimes piecing it back together is just to difficult, continuing to use is easier.

It's not hopeless

Addiction is no way to live life. It is destructive for every aspect of an addict's life.

Although there is a high relapse rate for drug addicts, they can get their lives together and be sober. Trying a drug is voluntary, addiction is not. Hate the disease, not the addict. With the proper support, many lives are changed and saved for those addicted to drugs, even before an addict hits rock bottom. Family support, rehabs and a genuine desire to change are needed for and from the addict.

The addict has to come to a turning point or a crossroads. They need to admit there is a problem and that they need help. But most importantly, that they WANT help. You cannot force someone to give up an addiction (not with threats, blaming, or manipulation), they have to want sobriety more than their addiction and once they do, healing can begin taking place. Let your loved one know that you will be there to support them with open loving arms when they are ready for genuine help. In the meantime, don't rescue or enable them. Let them take the full blow for consequences for using. This doesn't mean you can't encourage them to get sober, or that you can't take care of yourself during the madness. Not enabling is the quickest way to get them to see on their own that they need help.

Help for friends and family to those that are addicted

You have to know or learn that changing the addict to your specifications is unreasonable, as well as damn near impossible. The best thing you can do for you when someone you know or love is addicted is to take care of yourself. Practice love in a detached, emotionally safe, non-enabling way. Consider joining a support group like Al-Anon, AA, see a therapist, and above all, love yourself.

© 2013 Rebecca


Arun28 on September 09, 2020:

Compassion is unfortunately eroding with time.

Useless itch on October 18, 2015:

Good for you Angela! Sadly EVERYONE is affected by this disease and it sucks! The loved ones are just as powerless as the addict themselves and everyone involved becomes frustrated and Fed up. I can only imagine the pain you feel to have to take your children and leave a man that you love so dearly. Ultimately the children's well being has to come first. I am a recovering addict. It took my wife leaving with my children to finally break the camels back and send me to my knees and my bottom. People do get better, but they will always have struggles and must continue to work on being in recovery for the rest of their lives! I pray that all goes well for you and your children and I pray your husband becomes the father you know in your heart he can be!

Angela on October 12, 2015:

I'm married to an addict. 10 years now.. Abuse, addiction and Affairs.. He also accuses me of trying to control him. I would sleep with my credit card, keys and money.. Wake up to him cutting my jeans pockets to get what he felt he deserved. If that didn't work he would just attack me. It's sad. It came to a point that our children were in danger.. Dad's driving with children, he's passing out and people notice that he's messed up.. The abuse got worse and I've heard it all.. I'm trying to control him.. I don't love him he's going to kill himself, I didn't understand.. Over time he cheated and blamed me.. Cheated more..he worked everyday and was also blasted out of his mind everyday. The bills didn't get paid.. It's a selfish thing addiction.. He over dosed 3 years ago and has not been the same.. I'm now packing up my children after he beat In front of his children.. Screaming at me.. Look at what you made me do.. Later he told friends that I'm the one that bitched until he snapped... He was in a rage and didn't even notice my black eyes, strangle marks around my neck.. He went to his knees and said.. Who did this to you? I'm going to kill them.. All I could do was cry.. That was my low point and wake up call.. He's not had his yet..

There is hope if you want the help.. Because of all the classes I've attended I've met many people that made it.. I see hope.. But I also has to remove myself and my children... Maybe one day he can be a healthy father to his children.. I didn't cause this and I can't cure it..

Rebecca (author) from USA on July 03, 2015:

Rach-I'm very sorry. Addictions really do touch everyone. Sending you love and hugs. Thank you for your comment and mentioning the reality of how devastating this can be.

Rach on July 03, 2015:

Very serious with a very wide scope of despair,that is where Iam,my Beautiful Sweet Daughter passed this last Christmas and left my 19month old Grandson behind,my Son took him 3000miles away,she was 19.All os done now and all I want now is to be with her-the disease touches all.

Useless itch on June 20, 2015:


The first thing I would suggest is that you find a support group for family members of addicted persons! It is very important that you make sure to obtain useful and factual based information about drugs and addiction! The first thing you must understand and come to grips with is that; (in the event that your significant other does have a drug related problem) just like the addict themselves you have NO control over their disease! Due to large disagreement of a "clear and concise" definition of drug addiction at the policy level (I.e. Court system, congress and other government agencies directly involved in outlining policies to "deal" with drug addiction) and a long standing campaign of misinformation at the media and societal level there is still a ton of myths, misinformation and misrepresentation of drug addiction! Confronting a potential "active" drug addict about their drug problem without experienced professional help and a clear understanding of addiction in general is very dangerous for everyone involved. As a recovering addict who is married to a wonderful and understanding wife (also "recovering" from this disease as it relates to loved ones of addicts) I have an extensive understanding of drug addiction from both points of view. . Please send me any further questions you may have on this issue if you would like my help. I am more than willing to help you in any capacity I am able. I empathize with your situation because drug addiction is a very serious DISEASE with very serious consequences for everyone involved.

Rebecca (author) from USA on February 26, 2015:

Adam-the comment was really off the top, especially for someone you don't even know. No one can solve a drug addicts problems, but they can possibly help, esp if they don't enable.

Joe-good for you for saying what you did.

Drug addiction and the people hurt by it is not funny, it's not about control even. It's about loving someone and caring more about them then they do about themselves.

And Alanon can help people living with addicts. Trash talking does not help.

Joe on February 26, 2015:



adam on January 26, 2015:

who put you in an authoritative position stephanie? smart enough to be the boss but not to do your research. what u found was an anxiety med. you cannot do anything to affect your husbands drug use. good luck. you sound like a serious pain in the ass and if his girlfriend was small enough, you would probably find her in his fifth pocket too! control issues couldn't possibly be your addiction, could they? i see where a xany might come in handy. sorry to be a dick, you sound horrible though

Ronald Stephanie WISEMAN on January 19, 2015:

Very interesting article, funny pictures. We also write about this elusive drug and our hopes is that somebody will change their mind and quit this drug. Thank You, Thumbs up and Interesting. Sharing as well.

Rebecca (author) from USA on May 23, 2014:

Hi Stephanie,

Sounds maybe like the pills you found were xanax bars? I'm not entirely sure. Those are prescribed for Anxiety. Benzos. Related to valium, ativan, klonpin (not sure I'm spelling those right). They have a legit medical purpose, but can be highly addictive and withdrawal is a nightmare. I know this personally as I have GAD and I was/and still am on and off them, going on 8 years now. I'm still tapering to try to get off the damn things. They are very illegal without a prescription. I wish I had better advice, but all I can say is try to sit down with your husband and have a very serious discussion about these things. Addiction is different for everyone, and so multifaceted. You may get a better idea of what to do about this issue if he will be open and honest about them. He may not have any addiction at all but simply use them recreation-ally...I did, but then built up a tolerance. All this drug stuff is such a delicate balance and a fine walk on a tight rope. I hope you can talk to him and determine if there is a problem. What is he taking for anxiety? Maybe he's just found someone with a higher dose of what he already takes? I'm sorry...I wish I had better advice.

Stephanie on May 21, 2014:

I found pills in my husbands jeans about 6 months ago. Confronted him and he said he would not buy anymore or take anymore. I told him at that time that I would leave him if he does. I'm not sure if he really quit or just hide it well. He does smoke pot everyday. I had been on him about that since the day we got married. Finally I just accepted it. It didn't effect his job or behavior that I noticed. We own our business, so he can pretty much do what he wants. Today I was cleaning out his pants pockets and found a pill. Rectangle, yellow, and had bars on it. I have no ideal what it is. He is on two different prescriptions for anxiety and I'm scared that if he takes something along with them that it could have fatal results. I confronted him and he said that the guy that works for us gave it to him but he wasn't going to take it. I do not believe that at all. Why would he even take it in the first place if he wasn't going to take it? I was really pissed excuse my language, I hung up the phone and went to the job site and fired the person that gave it to him. I know that it is easy access for him to get a hold of them, I'm so lost at what I should do now. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Rebecca (author) from USA on May 02, 2014:

I tried to correct mistakes! Do you see more?! AHHHHHHHHHH

Deeznutz on May 01, 2014:

Being a grammar natzi is an addiction as well ;)

Christine on January 04, 2014:

A heroine is a female hero. Heroin is a drug. Interesting reading, though. Thank you.

Rebecca (author) from USA on December 09, 2013:

Thanks Anonymous. I had a different response before this, decided to reply with some grace and not make jokes. It would be helpful to know who you are or what you specifically see wrong, I don't have the luxury of having an editor, but will plan on looking this over later. Sometimes it's hard to find my mistakes even after reading something 5x! I need more eyeballs. Initially, I took your comment as a bit gruff. I'm all for constructive critisism though, so thanks for your feedback.

anonymous on December 08, 2013:

This page needs editing. Take your love of writing seriously and pay attention to grammar and punctuation. You are selling yourself short. I say this hoping you read your post thoroughly, find things to correct, and correct them. If you want to write, learn to write well.

Jenett on November 10, 2013:

You're right about how media glamourizes drug use, maybe the main dealers pay them to do so. I don't know. All i know is we should judge whatever we learn from even our best friend in today's world.

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on May 09, 2013:

Very informative and sad.

Rebecca (author) from USA on May 09, 2013:

Thanks. Glad it was helpful. I hope to not give off the impression that drugs are bad. addictions are bad.

Related Articles