Asana Recovery

How Do I Know If I’m a Drug Addict?

In 2020, an estimated 40.3 million Americans had a substance use disorder, otherwise known as an addiction, to drugs or alcohol. That means 14.5% of the U.S. adult population struggles with addiction. While we’re often brought up to think that there’s something shameful in addiction or that it’s a personal failure, it isn’t.

Addiction is disorder and one that affects millions of Americans. But, while people don’t choose to be addicted, the road to getting help starts with recognizing addiction and reaching out.

If you’re concerned about your drug use habits, the answer is probably that you should talk to someone. It’s almost impossible to be too careful around medication or recreational drugs and if you find yourself habitually using, constantly using, or even constantly thinking about doing so, it’s a good sign to get help. However, this article goes over the signs and symptoms of addiction, based on how the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) assesses addiction and how those symptoms will impact you in real life.

DSM-5 Symptoms of Addiction

thoughtful young girl leaning against the wallA DSM-5 substance use diagnosis is available to anyone who meets two or more of the following criteria over a 12-month period:

  • A drug is taken in larger amounts/over a longer time than you want
  • You want to or have unsuccessfully tried to cut down or control how much you use
  • You spend a considerable amount of time and effort obtaining, using, or recovering from the drug
  • You crave or have strong desires/urges to use the drug
  • Your drug use gets in the way of filling responsibilities at work, school, or home
  • Your drug use causes social or interpersonal problems or makes them worse, but you keep using anyway
  • You’ve given up social, occupational, or recreational activities to use more
  • You’ve used or continue to use drugs in situations where they create physical risk
  • You have a physical or psychological problem, and you know drug use is making it worse but you keep using anyway
  • You keep having to take more of the drug to get the same effects or you experience reduced effects of the drug
  • You experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug

Any two of these symptoms is indicative of a substance use disorder.

However, it can be hard to match those kinds of behaviors to something like occasionally binging or overdoing it on your prescription medication. Here, symptoms of addiction can look more like:

  • Taking more of a prescription medication than prescribed
  • Taking a prescription medication on all or most days when you’re only supposed to take it as needed (e.g., Ambien or Valium)
  • Always running out of prescriptions early
  • Doctor shopping or getting a prescription from multiple doctors
  • Purchasing prescription medication without a prescription
  • Using prescription medication in a way not allowed by the prescription. E.g., crushing Ambien or taking Xanax with alcohol
  • Taking medication outside of prescribed hours, such as before operating a vehicle or taking sleeping pills during the day
  • Taking medication to destress or to “not feel”
  • Compulsively using prescription medication especially as a preventive
  • Constantly thinking about taking or using the medication

Get Your Questions Answered

All of these are a symptom of a serious problem. If you exhibit these or other behaviors, you should look into getting help.

You might also want to look into some of the following symptoms:

You Regularly Binge

male alcoholic with bottle and glass drinking whiskey at nightMany Americans binge on drugs or alcohol at least occasionally. But, if you find yourself doing it regularly, it’s heavily indicative of a problem. What’s regularly? If you get high to the point of blacking out or having memory issues more than about once a year, it’s too much. Normal substance use should involve moderation and care.

You’re Using More

If you keep having to take more drugs to get the same effect, if you’re not getting the same high you were before, or if you find yourself chasing that first experience, you probably have a problem. In addition, building tolerance forces you to increase usage, which increases your risk of addiction and further problems. If you can recognize that cycle, stopping it as quickly as possible is important.

You Can’t Quit

Whether you intend to quit and just can’t get yourself to that point, have a habit of delaying when you quit, or keep trying and eventually relapsing, not being able to stop using is a major sign that something is wrong. Most importantly, this applies even if it feels like there’s a valid reason for continued use. For example, if you were going to stop and then something stressful happened so you justified using for a few more days. Or if something good happened and you justified using one more time to celebrate. Or if you quit, make it through the worst of the withdrawal symptoms, and then suddenly find yourself using again because you proved to yourself you could quit so it’s no big deal. The reasons don’t matter, if you try to quit and keep relapsing, you have a problem.

You Can’t Control How Much You Use

If you start out the night with intentions to use a small amount but then end up using a lot more than you intended, it’s a sign you’re not in control. That also holds true if you compulsively use when drugs are in front of you. E.g., if someone leaves Xanax out, you compulsively take them. Or if someone hands you a joint, you smoke it. That kind of behavior is not always visible with drugs because you won’t’ always state your intentions aloud and therefore it’s easier to lie to yourself – however, if you do notice that you frequently use more than you intended, it is a problem.

You Constantly Think About Using

The more you think about using, the more likely it is a problem. People with healthy relationships to drugs don’t obsess over them, don’t spend time planning to use them, don’t spend time anticipating using them, don’t rush to use them when they get home from work, etc. If you frequently find yourself investing a large part of your energy or mental energy in using, acquiring, or doing drugs, it’s a sign that you have a problem. That might include planning to arrive somewhere late so you can take a detour and pick up drugs. It might include skipping family events to stay home and do drugs. It might include rushing to get home after work so you can use. The more effort you’re putting into using, the more likely it is a problem.

Millions of Americans have drug problems. It’s not shameful, it’s a medical health problem and you can get treatment. If any of these sound like you, it might be time to see a professional, to talk to your doctor, or to visit a drug addiction treatment center to see if they can help.

Asana Recovery provides a full continuum of highly effective drug rehab and alcohol rehab programs. If you have questions for yourself, or your loved one, contact us today to speak in complete confidence with one of our experienced and caring addiction treatment team.