How to Spot the Signs of Young Adult Addiction

Young adults love to experiment. This attitude quite often brings them in contact with addictive substances. Underage drinking, for example, is one of the most common issues in the U.S. and is responsible for more than 3,900 deaths each year. And that is just barely scratching the surface. With so many addictive substances being easily available on the “market”, it is becoming more and more important to be able to spot the signs of young adult addiction as soon as possible. At Little Creek Recovery Center, we believe that the best way to deal with young adult addiction is to spot the early warning signs and not let the addiction take root in the first place. That is why this article is going to be all about showing you all the possible signs that your young adult might have an addiction problem.

How can you spot the signs of young adult addiction?

Before we talk about the various signs of addiction, it is important to understand exactly what is addiction. Not every young adult who partakes in drugs or alcohol is going to develop an addiction after all. The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as compulsive behavior of any type that continues regardless of negative consequences. It is worth noting that addiction in young adults is not only “reserved” for substance abuse. It can have numerous forms, such as addiction to playing video games, addiction to watching TV shows, or similar. That being said, substance addictions are the most dangerous of them all, as they have significant detrimental effects on young adults’ health. Other, more benign, addictions are much easier to cure as they do not have a physical component.

Gambling can also be an addiction.

There are five main “categories” of warning signs. They are:

  • Changes in behavior
  • General indicators of addiction
  • Changes in appearance
  • Changes in health
  • Other psychological changes

Not every young adult is the same

It is also worth noting that every single young adult is quite unique. This means that the accompanying signs of addiction will be different for each individual. And, in some cases, it might even be completely impossible to figure out whether a young adult has an addiction problem or not. In most cases, however, knowing how to spot the signs of young adult addiction will be able to stop the addiction in its tracks, before it can progress even further. But even if the addiction progresses to “unmanageable” levels, you still have options, such as Little Creek Recovery Center. We specialize in treating young adult males, via our twelve-step and adventure trek programs, to name a few. If you want to find out more about Little Creek Recovery, feel free to get in touch with us, our doors are always open.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the most common warning signs that your young adult may be struggling with addiction.

Changes in behavior

The first category of signs includes various changes in behavior. In fact, one of the best ways to spot the signs of young adult addiction is to be on the lookout for secretive behavior. While this may not always indicate addiction, it is definitely something that you may want to investigate. Other changes may include financial issues, (as addictions are usually quite costly), legal issues, poor performance at school or work, self-isolation, and similar.

person behind a window
One of the best ways to spot the signs of young adult addiction is to look out for secretive behavior.

The main issue here is that either one of these changes may be due to an addiction problem or they may be brought by other factors. The best thing that you can do is have an honest chat with your young adult and try to figure out the source of their issues. Behavioral changes, on their own, are not enough to “prove” that your young adult has an addiction problem but they are a good indicator that something is going on. In other words, you want to be completely certain that your young adult has an addiction problem before you sign them up for opioid addiction treatment in PA, for example. In many cases, simply talking with them in an honest and calm way can produce incredible results.

Next up, let’s see about some of the most common general indicators of addiction.

General indicators of addiction

Some of the most common indicators that your young adult may have an addiction problem include:

  • Cravings
  • Isolation
  • “Bad” friendships
  • Higher tolerance
  • Physical dependence


One of the defining features of addiction is craving for more. If you notice that your young adult is getting antsy at times, it may indicate that they are unable to get more of the substance and are getting edgy.

person stuffing their mouth with chips
Food cravings might also indicate addiction.


Many young adults start isolating themselves once they form an addiction. The isolation can occur due to their wish to hide the addiction or due to depressive feelings that addiction usually brings with it. If your young adult was highly social and then suddenly “shuts all doors”, you may want to investigate. If you realize that addiction is behind isolation, one of the best things you can do is sign your young adult up for an outdoor adventure program in PA. This program is ideal for dealing with addiction while improving the young adults’ psychological, physical, social, and spiritual well-being through exercise and nature.

Bad friendships

The fact of the matter is that you are not going to like all of the friends that your young adult socializes with. However, there is a huge difference between your young adult having a few friends that you don’t like and surrounding themselves with a veritable sea of “undesirable” characters. The presence of such characters can indicate that addiction to a substance might form in due time, or it has already formed. Again, the first thing you will want to do is talk with your young adult.

Be extremely careful how you approach this topic, though. You will want to have an honest, calm, conversation, where you do not judge anyone based on appearances and try to have drug addiction myths and facts in order. Try not to overreact and demand that your young adult stop seeing their friends. Always ask for explanations before you jump to any conclusions.

Higher tolerance

One of the “easier” ways to spot the signs of young adult addiction is by monitoring their tolerance levels. If, for example, you suspect that your young adult is developing an alcohol addiction, try to be watchful of how well they deal with any amount of alcohol. A higher tolerance usually means that addiction might be forming, or has already formed. Do note that some young adults have a higher innate tolerance for alcohol. Not getting tipsy from small amounts does not necessarily mean that you should sign them up for alcohol addiction treatment. What it does mean is that you should monitor their progress carefully.

numerous alcohol bottles, symbolizing a way to spot the signs of young adult addiction
If you notice that your young adult can drink a lot without getting drunk, you might want to investigate.

Physical dependence

If you notice that your young adult is often looking far from their best, without any apparent reason, this might indicate that they are already in the throes of addiction. This is the time to start looking into the life of your young adult with a magnifying glass, so to speak. Even if the addiction is not the underlying problem, something is. And that is always worth exploring.

Changes in appearance

If you are looking to spot the signs of young adult addiction, physical changes are most likely going to be among the first. The eyes are said to be the mirrors of the soul and are therefore the first place you should look for any changes. Bloodshot eyes and pinpoint or dilated pupils are usually the first warning signs that you will be able to see. You may also notice a sudden change in general eating habits, marks on the skin, weight changes, tremors, or a frequent runny nose.

All of these changes might be connected to certain substance addictions. For example, marijuana is usually connected to excessive eating while cocaine, meth, and Adderall can all contribute to a sudden weight loss. Different drugs may also interfere with sleep patterns. While small changes in appearance are perfectly normal, anything that strikes you as at least “odd” needs to be investigated. Addiction is a family issue, after all, and family awareness always needs to be on point. If you notice that your young adult’s appearance is suddenly deteriorating, it is your duty to get to the “bottom” of it.

Changes in health

Some of the most prominent health changes that are brought upon by substance addiction are changes in appetite, frequent illnesses, coordination issues, and erratic sleep schedules.

person sleeping
An addiction can cause erratic sleep patterns.

Do note that any of these issues alone does not necessarily mean that your young adult has an addiction problem. But what they do mean is that you need to find the source of the problem. More often than not, addiction is at the root of the issue. The sooner you figure out the underlying cause, the sooner the recovery process can begin. Try to be tactful when talking to your young adult, though. If they are struggling with addiction, they might be somewhat difficult to talk to. But that does not mean that you can “lose your cool”. On the contrary, it means that you need to be even calmer and approach the situation from a logical standpoint and not an emotional one.

Spot the signs of young adult addiction – Other psychological changes

Some of the most common psychological changes that occur due to addiction include:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Apathy or disinterest
  • Personality changes
  • Poor self-image
  • Emotional withdrawal

If you are looking to spot the signs of young adult addiction, you need to pay attention to mood swings, especially. Almost every substance features a “high” and a “low” period. And there is a world of difference between the two. Of course, be on the lookout for other signs at the same time. Just noticing a single warning sign might not indicate that your young adult has an addiction problem. But if you notice several or more, addiction becomes much more likely.

one of the ways to spot the signs of young adult addiction - mood swings
Severe mood swings usually indicate that your young adult might have an addiction problem.

Diagnosing addiction in young adults

Let’s say that you’ve managed to spot the signs of young adult addiction. The next step is to actually diagnose addiction. According to the DSM-5 Criteria for Substance Use Disorders, there are 11 criteria for addiction, including cravings or strong urges for the substance, developing a tolerance, social/interpersonal problems, etc. Most of the warning signs were actually extrapolated from this criteria.

The criteria themselves are measured by severity: Mild (1-2), Moderate (3-5), and Severe (6+). While anyone can spot the signs of young adult addiction, only a licensed health/mental health professional can provide a formal diagnosis. This is very important if you are looking to utilize your health insurance plan to cover some of the treatment costs. Generally, health insurance plans cover the treatment costs for addiction but the premiums depend from one plan to another.

Treating addiction in young adults

Addiction can be very difficult to completely cure. Many patients seem to be doing really well only to relapse shortly after the treatment. The best thing that you can do is consider long-term treatment plans, as they provide less likelihood of relapse. Furthermore, you will want to send your young adult to a specialized institution, one that has numerous treatment options available. For example, if you are looking to cure a young male adult from addiction, the best thing to do would be to get in touch with Little Creek Recovery Center. We provide personal attention to each and every resident, ensuring their long-term welfare. Furthermore, we specialize in treating young adult men, without containment and without mixing the sexes. Our unique approach is why the young adult male population chooses Little Creek Recovery Center!

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