The 5 Most Common Behavior Traits of an Addict

The behavior of an addicted person is baffling, frustrating, frightening and sad. The power of addictive substances is so strong that many people are overwhelmed by it. Their actions and words are dictated by their need for more drugs but those who know and love him (or her) may not be able to understand why they are acting the way they are. Without realizing that drug use is behind the odd, erratic, abusive or criminal behavior you’re looking at, the mystery may continue for years.

There are a few people who can be addicted to drugs or alcohol and continue to function at a job or in society. Almost no one can succeed equally in all areas of life. The stress will show up somewhere and often, that’s behind closed doors. Thus, wives, children, siblings and parents may see the worst of his behavior while co-workers or friends may think things are fine for quite a while longer.

When someone you love is addicted, the truth is very hard to face. You’re not alone in having a hard time dealing with the personality and morality changes of the one you love. This list is provided to help you separate fact from fantasy. Once you know what’s going on, you can make better decisions and take the right actions.

Common Behavior Traits of an Addict

1. They lie.

Guy liying on the phone

They have to tell lies to mislead people about where they were when they were really out buying or using drugs or alcohol. They have to lie about where the hundreds or thousands of dollars went. The more they feel they need drugs, the more likely they are to feel the need to lie.

When you have trusted a person for years and then she begins lying to you, it’s very hard to set that trust aside. Family and good friends can be fooled by a skillful liar for years. But all this time, the person is slowly destroying herself.

If a person’s behavior changes markedly and the explanations don’t really add up, you have to hold onto your own common sense. If what you’re being told doesn’t make sense, then there’s probably a very good reason—you’re being lied to. You might be able to check some of the stories. Most, you probably can’t. You will have no way of knowing if someone actually siphoned the gas out of his car, causing him to need $20 from you right now. The real tipoff is that these strange things keep happening to him. Gradually, his life descends into chaos, camouflaged by these lies.

2. They manipulate.

Couple hugging looking aside

Unless they are also addicted, the family and close friends of an addicted person really want her to thrive and be happy. They try to encourage good decisions but the addicted person is on a destructive track. The allure of the drugs is so powerful, she feels she needs the drugs to function, to be able to get through another day, to not get desperately sick from withdrawal. So she manipulates those who love her the most.

Drugs like opiates, alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine, synthetics like Spice and even marijuana can change a person who was loving and open with her family into someone who has to manipulate everyone so they will let her keep using drugs.

With love in their hearts, family and close friends try to convince the addicted person to stop using these deadly substances, to go to rehab. But her answer?

“I have it under control.”
“I can stop anytime I want.”
“You are just jealous because I can have fun and you can’t.”
“You never want me to enjoy myself.”
“It’s your fault I’m this way.”
“You don’t even try to understand how I feel.”
“You wouldn’t say that if you loved me.”

And many, many more examples of this type.

And perhaps the most awful type of manipulation occurs between a man and wife or girlfriend and boyfriend. When caught using drugs, the addicted person will promise to do better, to go to meetings, to start going to church, to get another job, to stop seeing drug dealers or other drug users. The non-addict really wants to believe the promises so he lets up on the pressure. He lets the addict back in the home or backs down from kicking her out. As soon as the pressure is off, the addicted person will probably be attentive and loving for a little while—until the next binge of drug or alcohol use. Then all bets are off.

An addict may call in the middle of the night, crying and professing love, begging to see the one he loves just one more time, but then if they meet, he asks for money just to get some good food and then is gone. The money goes to drugs. It’s all manipulation.

Unfortunately, this pattern of manipulation all too often goes on for months or years without there being any change in behavior. When everything valuable is gone and the children are at risk, the non-addict finally moves away or changes the locks.

The sad truth is that while a person is addicted, the promises can’t be believed. They are just more manipulation.

3. They are very likely to be engaged in criminal acts.

Stealing money

This isn’t true of every addict, but it is a typical pattern for a person who has been addicted for a considerable time. Eventually, the money runs out. They have pawned or sold everything of value. They owe friends and family money. There are no more assets but the drugs or alcohol have to be obtained.

At this point, many people will begin committing crimes. Selling or manufacturing drugs are common ones. Burglary, robbery, identity theft, credit card theft, car thefts and shoplifting are also common. An employee may steal items from the place of business and pawn or sell them. Someone with access to cash may embezzle from a company. Many people steal items from the homes of family or friends.

When a person is addicted to prescription drugs, the crimes may be a little different. He may visit multiple doctors to get prescriptions for pills or may forge prescriptions. In recent years, there have been more safeguards put in place in most states so that these attempts are less likely to succeed.

Of course, there is driving while drunk or high. Also, some drugs change a person’s personality to make him more paranoid or aggressive which can result in assault or domestic violence charges.

And unfortunately, some drugs so deplete a person’s sense of self-respect that he or she will turn to prostitution or any degraded activity that will score them their next hit.

4. An addict will shift the blame.

addict pointing finger at another

Irresponsibility is the name of the game for an addict. Whereas this person may have lived their prior life as a highly responsible individual, drug addiction steals that quality away. Whatever happens is never his fault. If he gets fired from a job, it’s the boss’s fault, the addict was unfairly targeted. If he gets in a car accident, it was totally someone else’s fault. If he fails at some activity, those close to him will be blamed.

Family will appeal to him to please care for the children and his spouse, please get another job, please stop using these drugs and so on. Even if he wants to, the addiction is more powerful than he is and he will be drawn to his drug dealer, his drug-using friends and whatever means he must employ to keep the drugs coming. What really has to happen is that he must be rehabilitated to the point of having more power than the drugs.

5. An addict is very likely to become abusive.

It’s tragic that an addict’s blame can even take a violent and abusive form. With the delusional thinking common to most addicts, he can perceive those around him as being threatening, dangerous or malicious. As he shifts the blame, he may physically, mentally or emotionally attack those he blames.

The spouse of an addict very often bears the brunt of both the blame and the abuse. It’s hard to do anything right. He or she is not supportive. Mental and emotional abuse may be directed at the spouse to completely shut down any ability to effectively fight the real problem—the addiction. It’s very common for spouses and significant others to be browbeaten into submission, often for years.

Of course, physical violence is a very real possibility, especially toward spouses, children, elderly parents—particularly those people who can’t fight back.

It doesn’t matter what drug a person is addicted to—the need to get and use the drug is a compulsion. If it were not bigger and more powerful at this moment than his own will, he would not be addicted, he would stop using drugs and begin to fix his life.

There is Hope

But out of this whole tragic, chaotic situation, there is a ray of hope. Rehabilitation and recovery are possible. When a person goes through an effective rehabilitation program and overcomes his (or her) need for drugs or alcohol, it is possible to see that bright, caring and responsible person come back again. It’s possible to recover one’s interest in life and to lose the continuous craving for drugs.

Happy young people walking in a wood

Not every program focuses on bringing about these changes. There are many programs where the philosophy is to medicate the person in recovery with methadone, Suboxone, antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. But this isn’t the only method of rehabilitation.

The Narconon program is dedicated to bringing about strong life skills so a person can succeed in life. Not only are there no drugs given as part of the Narconon rehab program, there is a step of the program devoted to a healthy method of detoxifying the body of old drug residues as this helps with clarity of thinking—and many people says it also reduces or even may eliminate cravings. Another major step of the program offers an innovative way to recover from the trauma of the past and regain a sharp new perception of the present.

This recovery takes time, so there is no set time limit on the Narconon program. A person progresses through the steps at his or her own rate. The most important thing is that he regains the skills he needs to build a new, sober life and repair his loving relationships with family and close friends. This is the goal of the Narconon program—a goal that has been successfully achieved for nearly fifty years. If this sounds good to you and you want to know more, just give us a call.


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.