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Addiction is, by nature, a blinding disease. Most people never see it coming until a pattern of dependence forms, and, even then, figuring out whether or not you need to cut back or go cold turkey can be difficult. Learn to recognize addiction so you will know when and how to seek help.
Not All Who Use Drugs Abuse Them
According to Harvard Medical School, brain chemistry explains why some people become addicted to drugs while others do not. In people who become dependent upon drugs, the reward system may be more vulnerable. They may also form more intense responses to stress and succumb to addictive habits quicker. This fact is especially true for those who suffer from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia or other mental-health conditions.
To meet the diagnosis for drug dependence, people must meet at least three of the following criteria:
- Suffering withdrawal symptoms and using drugs to relieve them
- Taking a drug in higher doses or for longer than intended
- Persistently wanting or failing cut down on drug use
- Spending a great deal of time obtaining the drug, using it or recovering from its effects
- Giving up other important activities as a result of or for the sake of drug use
Another characteristic of addiction is continued drug or alcohol use despite serious physical or psychological harm. For example, someone may be addicted if she continues to use drugs after a doctor warns her that her liver is showings signs of damage, or if she does jail time for repeated DUIs. At this stage, seeking professional help from a qualified rehab facility is advised.
Telltale Signs of Addiction
Whether your substance of choice is merlot, painkillers or gambling, a good look at your calendar may give you the clues you need for an armchair diagnosis. Reflect on how you have spent your time over the past six months. If acquiring, using and recovering from drugs have dominated your time, then you will see it. If you feel compelled to take a bit more all the time, then you are probably carving out more and more space in your life for drugs. The question is what are you cutting out to make room?
Other factors to consider include the following list:
- Reward response – Does using drugs make you feel better or more in control? This positive physical payoff may obscure the negative consequences.
- Cessation – Do you feel anxious or uncomfortable if you cannot use or even think about not using? One way to gauge how important drugs are to you is to consider life without them. Your initial emotional and physical response can be highly telling.
- Disruption – Have drugs disrupted your life and relationships?
- Reverting – Do you often want to do something different, but then turn around and keep doing the same thing? If just thinking about depriving yourself of drugs triggers a chorus of reasons to delay the day you get sober, then take an honest look about your personal powerlessness over your drug-using habits.
Together, these signs show evidence that addiction is controlling you, that it has turned your impulses, pleasures, anxieties, fears and preferences against you.
Take the Test of Addiction
Although every rehab facility is different, most draw from screening tests that comply with scientific standards when they assess individuals for addiction severity. The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a good resource to help you vet a variety of assessments. Questions you are likely to find included among the samples they deem reliable and valid include the following: One way to explore the extent of your substance-abuse issues is to answer the questions for yourself, perhaps also seeking input from a friend who may see your blind spots and help you get more honest. Twenty questions compiled by John’s Hopkins University physicians can get your started. They include the following:
- Do you lose time from work due to drinking or drug use?
- Is drinking or drug use making your home life unhappy?
- Do you drink or use drugs because you are shy with other people?
- Is drinking or drug use affecting your reputation?
- Have you ever felt remorse after drinking or drug use?
- Have you gotten into financial difficulties as a result of your drinking or drug use?
- Do you turn to lower companions and an inferior environment when drinking or using drugs?
- Does your drinking or drug use make you careless of your family’s welfare?
- Has your ambition decreased since drinking or using drugs?
- Do you crave a drink or a drug at a definite time daily?
- Do you want a drink or drug the next morning?
- Does your drinking or drug use cause you to have difficulty sleeping?
- Has your efficiency decreased since drinking or using drugs?
- Is your drinking or drug use jeopardizing your job or business?
- Do you drink or use drugs to escape from worries or troubles?
- Do you drink or use drugs alone?
- Have you ever had a complete loss of memory?
- Has your physician ever treated you for drinking or drug use?
- Do you drink or use drugs to build your self-confidence?
- Have you ever been in a hospital or institution on account of drinking or drug use?
Whether your drug is cocaine, sex or overspending, your answers to these questions may show you if you have crossed the line into addiction.
Recovery from Addiction
If you or someone you love struggles with addiction, then know that help is available. Admissions coordinators at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline can guide you to wellness. Do not go it alone when help is just one phone call away. You never have to go back to a life of addiction if you start your recovery now.