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:

  • Secrecy
  • Fatigue
  • Laziness
  • Paranoia
  • Selfishness
  • Dishonesty
  • Restlessness
  • Manipulation
  • 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, which can be particularly problematic in a work or school environment. Students who turn to drugs or alcohol are more likely to drop out of school entirely. The individual’s brain is too consumed by substance cravings to be concerned with anything else. 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 employees report that they felt distracted or unsafe on the job 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.

How Addiction Treatment Can Help You Find Yourself Again

Change simply does not happen overnight. For an individual to reclaim their former self after being affected by substance abuse, they need to be ready to commit to serious lifestyle changes, starting with quitting. Because drugs and alcohol alter the brain, it is impossible for the brain to heal without the individual abstaining from drugs and alcohol.

Staying sober is challenging, but addiction treatment can not only help maintain sobriety, it can also improve overall health. During treatment, an individual receives different forms of counseling and learns positive habits that can help them return to the person they used to be, prior to the addiction.

One-on-one counseling helps the individual find the underlying cause of their addiction and teaches them coping techniques that will prevent relapse. During group and family counseling, they can repair and strengthen relationships by learning to rebuild trust, improve communication skills, and take responsibility for their actions. Activities practiced in holistic addiction treatment, such as yoga and meditation, improve focus and reduce stress. This can particularly benefit an individual’s performance in a work or school environment.

Substance abuse is a dangerous disease that can have a profound impact on people by changing the way their brains function. Fortunately, the brain is capable of healing itself with time. And with a commitment to a healthy, more positive lifestyle, an addicted person can surely find themselves again.


Alcoholism and drug addiction negatively affect every aspect of your life. If you or a loved one is struggling, call 888 833 4676. Our team of addiction experts is ready to help you reclaim your life.