Drug Addiction

How Addiction Changes Your Personality

March 22nd, 2017
Addicted individual battling withdrawal and cravings.

Whether it is with a controversial movie like Requiem for a Dream or a Netflix success like Orange Is the New Black, entertainment has brought substance abuse right into our living rooms and our smartphones. Characters from all backgrounds are consumed by their addictions until they become unrecognizable. We see the tremendously negative effect that drugs and alcohol can have on people, but have we ever stopped and wondered why?

Substance Abuse and the Brain

The reason is simple: drugs and alcohol destroy the brain. They flood the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. This causes the person using drugs or alcohol to feel moments of extreme happiness, but once that feeling goes away, they are left with nothing but cravings. As the desire for the substance continues to increase, the individual needs to consume more and more of it to feel its euphoric effects. This rapidly turns into a vicious cycle in which the individual is constantly using, yet never able to achieve their original high.

Over time, drug and alcohol abuse alter critical brain activity and trick the brain into prioritizing the substance over everything else. Because the brain is consumed by drugs or alcohol, an individual’s personality drastically changes. Often, those suffering from a substance abuse problem morph into completely different people altogether.

Ways Drugs and Alcohol Can Change Personality and Behavior Include:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Impulsiveness
  • Shifting blame
  • Becoming abusive
  • High-risk behavior
  • Low stress tolerance
  • Frequent mood swings

Erratic behavior and negative changes in personality can have devastating effects on an individual’s overall well-being. Some of the damage it can cause includes:

Impaired Relationships

To hide their addiction, individuals often become very secretive, isolate themselves, or lie to loved ones. Frequent mood swings and anger management issues often cause issues in the home and cause relationships to deteriorate.

Poor School/Work Performance

Two of the most common changes seen in those with a substance abuse problem are loss of interest and inability to focus. Students who turn to drugs or alcohol are more likely to drop out of school entirely. Drugs can impact not only their academic or professional performance, but also how they are perceived by others in the workplace, as one-fifth of emplooyees report that they felt distracted or unsafe as a result of their coworkers’ addiction.

Poor Physical Health

Changes in personality can also affect physical health. Their drug of choice often becomes the central focus of an addicted person’s life, preventing them from accomplishing even the most basic tasks, such as eating regularly or getting sleep. Adding these stressors to an already weakened immune system can dismantle the individual’s health.

Criminal Charges

Drugs and alcohol often cause the addicted person to act erratically and take unnecessary risks. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, alcohol is a factor in 40 percent of all violent crimes today, and drugs and crime are directly and highly correlated.

What to do if you recognize these changes in your loved one:

Realizing that your loved one is struggling with addiction is scary and overwhelming but know that you are not alone. During this difficult time, it’s important that you surround yourself with support ⎼ groups such as Nan-Anon can be a great resource for families whose loved ones are struggling. Educating yourself on addiction, what you can and cannot do to help your loved one, how you can encourage them to seek treatment, and what to look for in a treatment center is also important. Talking to your loved one about their addiction won’t be easy, but it is a necessary conversation that could save their life. 

What to do if you recognize these changes in yourself:

Recognizing that you are struggling with drugs or alcohol is the first step to a healthier future. Know that while overcoming addiction is not easy, it is possible. Talk to your loved ones about your substance abuse and let them know how they can support you during this time. It is normal for you to have questions about addiction and wonder if you need treatment or if you can do it on your own. Do your research, learn what your treatment options are, and most importantly, don’t give up. We're here to help. If you or a loved one is struggling, call 888 510 8852. Our team of addiction experts is ready to help you reclaim your life.

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Mi on July 31, 2020 1:05 PM

This post has hit me hard. I have become a different person and I can't believe I haven't tied my lack of motivation, laziness, intolerability to stress etc to my addiction 🤦 I have blamed different things as I try to figure some things out, like I have PTSD and another mental health issue; which I am confident is the source of my addiction. I recently (almost a year now) a much harder drug but I have exchanged it for something much less harmful but it is still an addiction. If I don't have it, I can't function. And lately, even with it I am not functioning well... The high just is never quite enough to motivate me, to make me feel good enough to want to do anything. I am sad for myself and for those I am letting down, but I do realize I am the only one that can change this. It's just, will I?


View 1 Reply

    Just a kid on October 4, 2020 4:11 PM

    Oh hey,I couldnt help but notice your comment.Im just a student researching drugs,so Im clearly in no position to help but I just wanted to say things will get better over time.It might take weeks,months or even a year for things to get better but it will if you give it a chance they will.Just like nothing stays good nothing stays bad.Sorry, i know this comment is really cliche and you probably heard it a million times.


Philip on July 9, 2020 4:55 AM

Hi mountainside,

Thanks for sharing this blog about how addiction can change someones personality. It is a sensitive issue to talk about, but important to know because many out there are struggling in substance abuse.