Drug addiction, also referred to as substance use disorder is a progressive disease. It often starts with a “one-time” experiment, simple recreational use, peer pressure, an occasional getaway, or even a painkiller prescription. After a while, it becomes impossible to resist the urge to use them.

Drug addiction has several consequences for the user and their family, which this guide discusses. The longer it takes to be treated, the more severe its effects.

That is why one must intervene immediately if a younger family member is using or is addicted to drugs. It is easy to detect drug use or addiction because the signs of drug addiction in young adults are generally the same.

If a son, daughter, sister, brother, or any other young adult in your family exhibits any of the following signs, they could be using or addicted to drugs. They should get help immediately; this guide will show people how.

Warning Signs a Young Adult is Using Drugs

Figuring out whether a loved one is using drugs can be pretty challenging. Typical young adult behavior and signs of mental health issues could be easily mistaken for signs of drug addiction in young adults.

If someone notices the signs of drug addiction below, treat them as warnings. It would be best to rule out all the other options by investigating further or asking the person directly. Warning signs and symptoms will often vary based on the individual.

If a loved one is using or is addicted to drugs, the person will notice changes in four key areas: appearance, behavior, health, and psychological nature.

Changes in Behavior

Behavioral changes are among the first signs of drug addiction in young adults. However, changes in behavior in young adults could mean so many things, so one should be careful when evaluating behavior changes. 

Some of the changes in behavior to watch for include the following:

• Self-isolation and withdrawal

• Secretive behavior

• Repeated lying and deceit

• Neglecting responsibilities

• Unwillingness to participate in family activities

• Coming home late daily

• Avoiding eye contact

• Breaking rules

• Changing friends

• Poor performance at school or work

• Poor focus

As mentioned, it can be challenging to determine whether some behavioral changes are regular for young adults or indicate something more. Things like isolation and mood swings are common for young adults. If someone notices any of these changes, communicate with the person to find out more.

Changes in Appearance

There are common physical signs of drug abuse and addiction in young adults. A change in appearance can be a sign of substance abuse. Changes in physical appearance vary depending on what substance the person is using. But some changes in appearance are general. 

People should be on the lookout for the following:

• Bloodshot or glazed eyes

• Cold, shaky, or sweaty palms

• Constant perspiration

• Track marks on legs and arms

• Sores in the mouth

• Sudden weight loss or gain

• Lack of concern for personal hygiene

• Unexplained wounds and bruises

• Flushed cheeks

• Disheveled appearance

• Changes in complexion

• An unusual smell on breath or clothing

Changes in physical appearance can be hard to detect because they can be hidden. For example, eye drops are used to keep the eyes white, long sleeves to hide track marks, gloves to hide sweaty palms, etc. But it is easy to know when they are hiding something, such as wearing long sleeves and gloves in summer.

Changes in Health

Some of the health changes that could indicate drug use or addiction include:

• Frequent illnesses

• Erratic sleep schedule

• Coordination issues

• Poor appetite

• Sores and spots around the mouth

• Seizures or vomiting

Changes in Psychological Nature

Besides looking and acting differently, drug use and addiction cause them to feel differently. This causes psychological changes that extend to attitudes, thought processes, beliefs, and priorities. 

Some of the psychological signs of drug addiction in young adults include:

• Changes in personality traits

• Lack of motivation

• Negative self-image

• Depression and anxiety

• Apathy and disinterest

• Dramatic mood swings

• Losing interest in activities they used to enjoy

• Emotional withdrawal from families

The worse the drug abuse, the more intense the psychological changes are.

Consequences of Drug Use for Young Adults

Besides making young adults look, act, and feel different, drug use has several consequences in other areas of life. Further implications of drug use and addiction in young adults include:


Different drugs have different health effects on the user. They include cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal effects, cancers, hepatitis, and neurological effects. For example, smoking is linked to mouth, lung, and stomach cancers. If they inject themselves with substances, it could spread diseases like HIV or lead to conditions like collapsed veins.

Even seemingly harmless drugs, like marijuana, can have long-term health effects. Besides chronic and severe conditions, drug use could lead to vomiting, nausea, and euphoria.

Cognitive Impairment

Drug abuse has serious consequences for everyone, but young adults and adolescents are more at risk because their brains are not fully developed. Substance use changes brain function and structure, resulting in permanent cognitive effects even after detoxification.

Cognitive impairment can lead to lower academic performance due to poor focus, concentration, and memory. It also increases the likelihood of dropping out of high school.


The more they use drugs, the more their bodies build tolerance and the more they must spend to get high. Drug use also impairs judgment, making it harder for them to make sound financial decisions. This can have significant effects on their finances.

There are several other consequences of drug addiction, such as loss of friends, poor productivity, etc., but these are the key consequences of drug use in young adults.

Getting Help for Drug Addiction in Young Adults

The challenging thing about drug addiction in young adults is it is hard to spot early warning signs of drug addiction in young adults. Fortunately, it is never too late to intervene, even if you spot them after your loved one is addicted. There are various addiction treatment processes that can help your young adult family member recover from substance use.

At New Method Wellness, we understand that many young adults who struggle with addiction also have a co-occurring mental health disorder. We are a Dual Diagnosis Addiction Treatment Center offering drug addiction treatment that integrates care for both issues.

We specialize in treating substance abuse addiction and underlying mental health issues. Your loved one will receive integrated, comprehensive care for all their needs at New Method Wellness.

Contact us today to discuss the treatment process for your loved one.