Sometimes, recognizing the fact that you have an addiction can be challenging. Perhaps you have convinced yourself that you’re not an addict, because you’re still able to go to work and function in daily life. Or, maybe because you’re surrounded by others who are drinking or using recreational substances, you feel that your behavior is normal and doesn’t constitute an addiction.
If you’ve begun to ask yourself, “Am I an addict?” chances are that you’ve developed a concern about your drug or alcohol use, and there may be reason to suspect that it has become a problem. Here, learn how to identify an addiction, as well as what you can do if you do meet the criteria for addiction.
What does the term “addict” mean?
While people usually use the term addict to refer to someone who has a drug or alcohol addiction, the word “addiction” is not actually a clinical term or diagnosis. In the treatment world, individuals with addictions are diagnosed with a “substance use disorder” which is the official diagnostic term most people are referring to when they use the word “addiction.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), an addiction can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe. A person who meets two to three criteria for a substance use disorder diagnosis is said to have a mild addiction, whereas someone demonstrating four to five criteria has a moderate disorder. A severe substance use disorder is diagnosed when someone meets six or more diagnostic criteria.
Since a substance use disorder can occur in varying levels of severity, it is possible for some people to live with an addiction, but show only a few symptoms. This means that it is not entirely out of the question to have an addiction but still function rather well at work and home, which can make it difficult to identify that there is actually a problem.
Regardless of whether a substance use disorder is mild, moderate, or severe, what all cases have in common is that they represent a legitimate medical condition that requires treatment.
Signs of an Addiction
If you’re questioning, “Do I have an addiction?” the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder can help you to determine whether you may be living with an addiction. Keep in mind that if you do show signs of a substance use disorder, it will be important to seek treatment from a qualified professional, like a clinical social worker, psychologist, or doctor specializing in addiction, to receive a diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan.
The signs of a substance use disorder are as follows:
- Being unable to cut back on drug or alcohol use
- Using greater quantities of drugs or alcohol than intended
- Experiencing strong drug and alcohol cravings
- Using drugs or alcohol even when it is dangerous, such as driving when under the influence
- Giving up other activities, like hobbies, in favor of drug use
- Continuing to use drugs even when they cause relationship problems
- Ongoing drug or alcohol abuse even when it causes or worsens a health condition
- Spending significant amounts of time obtaining or using drugs/alcohol or recovering from substance use
- Continuing to abuse substances despite experiencing difficulty fulfilling duties at work or home
- Developing a tolerance, meaning you need larger quantities of drugs or alcohol to get the same feeling or “high”
- Suffering from unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when not using drugs or alcohol
If you show just two of the above symptoms, you may have a mild addiction that requires treatment. On the other hand, if your drug or alcohol use has escalated, you may notice that you meet most of the criteria above.
Perhaps you have tried to cut back on alcohol use, for instance, but you find that you cannot help but have a six pack every night after work. Or, maybe you’ve told yourself that your recreational marijuana use isn’t a problem, but you’re unable to stop using. Both of these examples would meet the criteria for being unable to cut back on substance use. In addition, perhaps you and your spouse have argued over your use of drugs or alcohol, but you continue to use anyway. This would indicate ongoing use even when it results in relationship problems.
Signs like those above, especially if you notice several, are an indicator that it is time to talk to an addiction treatment professional.
Reaching out for Help
If you meet some of the diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder, it is important to reach out for help. There is no shame in seeking addiction treatment, and in fact, asking for help demonstrates strength and courage. Whether you have only mild symptoms or a severe case of addiction, treatment can help you to overcome the hold that drugs and alcohol have on your life.
Treatment will often involve a combination of individual and group counseling, and you may take medications to address symptoms from withdrawal or to help you manage mental health symptoms, like depression, that can occur alongside addiction. For some people, it can be difficult to seek treatment from a physical office. Work schedules, family commitments, or even living in a small town or rural community can make it challenging to fit treatment into your life or find a treatment center.
If you’re struggling to find treatment, or you simply value your privacy, an online addiction treatment program may be suitable for you. At iRecoveryUSA, we offer comprehensive addiction treatment in an entirely online format via our telehealth app. This means you can receive individual and group counseling, as well as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) from the comfort and convenience of home. Contact us today to learn how we can help.