If you’re finding yourself using more and more of a substance, you’re likely starting to second guess yourself. Depending on your situation, the idea that you might be an addict might be your own or it might come from someone else. In either case, you’re right to be concerned. Millions of Americans struggle with substance abuse problems and as of 2021, almost 1 in 10 of us have a substance use disorder.
As shocking as that statistic is, only 10% of people needing treatment for a substance use disorder ever get it. The reason why is that most won’t admit they have a problem, won’t admit they need help, or consistently find excuses and reasons not to seek out that help.
If you’re struggling with any of the following 6 issues, it’s a good sign that you have an addiction.
Binging is classified as using so much of a substance that you get overly intoxicated. In this case, that works out to about more than 4 alcoholic beverages in an hour, getting to any point of blacking out or having memory issues is binging. This behavior is fine on the rare occasion but if happens regularly, it’s a good sign you’re having problems controlling yourself.
If you keep having to use or drink more to get the effect you want, it’s a good sign that you’re experiencing tolerance. Here, you’ll likely notice that you just have to keep using more. Or, you might have the idea that the drug isn’t as effective as it used to be. In either case, that feeling can push you into using more and more, making your problem worse.
If you stop using or drinking for a few days and start to feel sick, it’s a good sign you’re experiencing withdrawal. Often, that will mean feeling anxious, your hands might shake, you might feel nauseous or vomit, and you’ll likely have cravings. Often, people with a substance use disorder will get to the point of using where they need to keep using to stave off withdrawal symptoms. While that won’t ever be the case with something like amphetamines, it can be for most other types of substances. If you’re using to not feel bad instead of to feel good, it’s a bad sign.
Another very common symptom of substance use disorder is if you can’t control how much of a substance you use. For example, you go out to the bar with the intention of having one beer and end up blackout drunk, it’s a good sign that you have a problem. That also holds true if you find yourself compulsively using or even stealing drugs just because they are there. If you can’t control yourself and use or drink just because the substance is there, then you want help. Lack of control might also look like drinking from a bottle every time you go by it. Drinking more of a bottle than you think you should and refiling it. Going through your prescription too fast and having to illegally supplement it. All of this kind of behavior reflects that you can’t control your intake, which means you do need help.
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If you’re constantly thinking about using, drinking, or your next high, it means you have a behavioral problem. While that might not mean you have an addiction, it does mean that it might be time to ask for help.
Here, help can be a visit to your therapist, it can be discussing your thoughts with your doctor, and it may mean looking at your life and at why drugs or alcohol are currently the most rewarding thing in it. Making steps to change that could avert a problem before it happens, but chances are, that if you are constantly thinking about drugs or alcohol, you already have a problem.
If you’re trying to quit or have tried in the past and you can’t, it means you need help. However, that also holds true if you haven’t actually tried but instead keep finding excuses or reasons to not. For example, if you realize you might have an issue and it would be better to drink or use less but you keep finding reasons to delay it. E.g., you’re very stressed right now, you have to deal with this big project at work/school, you’re facing something stressful in the family, etc. If you’re finding excuses to keep using, you’re practicing self-denial, which is a major sign of substance use disorder.
There are plenty of other symptoms of substance use disorder. However, the ones above are the most common. In addition, the most common symptom of substance use disorder will always be consistent exposure to drugs or alcohol. If you use frequently, especially daily, your chances of having a disorder are significantly higher.
If you’re struggling with a substance use disorder, there is help. Reaching out and going to rehab or going through an outpatient treatment program can help you to recover by giving you the tools you need to quit. Often that means helping you build a better life without drugs or alcohol, using behavioral therapy to teach you to cope with stress and strong emotions, and teaching you how to deal with cravings. After all, most people don’t start using because everything is great in their life. So, treatment normally means tackling the pressing issues of substance dependence and then helping you build the life that will allow you to live substance free.
If you’re wondering if you’re an addict, it’s a good sign that something is wrong. Even if you don’t have a substance use problem, it’s a sign you’re feeling bad, stressed, and are struggling. Seeking out mental health treatment may be a good idea either way, even if you simply visit a therapist a few times. At the same time, hopefully you can honestly evaluate your substance use and get help if you need it.