No one who tries drugs or alcohol intends to develop a substance use disorder. Those who do become addicted often do not recognize the signs in themselves until they’ve suffered severe consequences to their health, home life, relationships, jobs, and more.
Over time, long-term use of drugs or alcohol changes the brain’s wiring, but there’s no single moment it happens. While there isn’t a universal switch for when drug use turns into an addiction, some common signs indicate an issue.
Here are ten signs that you might have a substance use disorder.
Your Usage Has Increased
Has your substance use increased over time? Did you start with a small glass of alcohol at night but now you need an entire bottle to feel the same effects? With regular use, your brain adapts to the presence of the drug or alcohol over time. Eventually, you need to use more and more of a substance to get the same high or feeling it gave you at first. This effect is called tolerance.
You Feel You Have to Use Frequently
As your brain develops a tolerance to certain substances with long-term use, you may also develop a dependency. Dependence develops when your brain adapts to regular exposure to the drug to the point that you feel withdrawal symptoms if you don’t maintain your level of use.
If you feel that you need to take certain drugs as often as you need to eat or drink, you have a problem. Frequent use of a substance throughout the day often negatively impacts your usual activities.
What is considered “frequent” drug use?
Depending on the drug, it could be just one time per day. For other substances, it may be several times a day. When you develop a dependency on drugs or alcohol, even in the earliest stages, you will begin to find you plan your daily activities around your use.
Getting High is Always on Your Mind
Your next hit or drink becomes your priority when you need the substance to feel good and hold off withdrawal symptoms. The brain recognizes your drug of choice as essential to survival, similar to how a person needs food and water. Relationships, school, work, and other responsibilities become less important because they are no longer “necessary” to daily life.
You Feel Compelled to Hide Your Drug Use
Maybe you tell yourself you don’t want friends and family to worry or judge you, so you use in secret or cover up the signs. You might avoid or lie to your loved ones in an attempt to hide that you are using or how much. You may feel that you are controlling the situation this way, but you’re also lying to yourself.
Your Drug Use Has Negatively Affected Your Finances and Job
Many drugs are expensive and require a considerable portion of your finances to support your habit. As your addiction worsens, you will need to consume more and more of your drug of choice. In many cases, you’ll feel the need to use the substance throughout the day, which could result in poor performance and neglected responsibilities at home or work. Continued usage could ultimately lead to increased absences or even losing your job altogether, putting you in an even more dire financial situation.
Your Efforts to Cut Back or Stop Your Use Result in Failure
No matter how often you try to stick to a schedule or dictate the amount you use, you usually consume excessive amounts throughout the day. You rationalize and justify your actions, making the boundaries you set meaningless. Sound familiar? Most people assume they’ll be able to quit using when they want, without treatment. They don’t realize that addiction has a biological component that makes it difficult to stop without medical or clinical interventions. Even if you can quit for a short time, stress, social, and environmental cues can trigger intense cravings that make relapse likely if you haven’t also developed healthy ways to manage them.
You Lose Your Ability to Self-Regulate
Prolonged drug use causes changes in the brain that can have behavioral consequences, such as impaired impulse control. You may find yourself ignoring the limits you’ve set for yourself or engaging in risky behavior that you would never have considered before using.
You Experience Withdrawal Symptoms When You Go for Long Periods Without Using Your Drug of Choice
If you’ve developed a dependence or addiction, you’re at risk of experiencing uncomfortable physical, emotional, and mental symptoms when you try to stop or decrease the amount you use. Symptoms differ by person and substance, but they can range from mild to life-threatening.
Common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Feelings of anxiety or depression
These symptoms occur because of your body’s dependence on these drugs. However, through an addiction treatment program, you can learn to stop using and find recovery. With time, these symptoms can become manageable or even disappear entirely.
Your Life Seems to Hold Little Meaning Outside of Getting High
You may feel that your life has no purpose or you have no motivation for anything other than getting high. The things that once made you happy and the hobbies you enjoyed during your free time no longer interest you. Now, the time and money you put toward things that fulfilled you are centered around your drug of choice.
You Have Legal or Health Problems Because of Your Drug Use
Have you ever been in trouble with the law due to your use? DUIs and possession of illegal substances are common examples of legal problems caused by drugs or alcohol. Other legal issues such as theft, fraud, or assault often arise when a person is desperate to find the means to continue their habit.
The risky behavior caused by drug use may also contribute to severe physical and mental health issues. Prolonged or excessive use of drugs and alcohol can cause various adverse effects on the body and the brain.
It is well documented that substance use increases your risk of infections, heart, liver, and gastrointestinal disease, stroke, depression, and anxiety, among other serious health concerns.
Am I Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol?
Do you see yourself in any of these situations? You’re not alone. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, over 20 million Americans over the age of 12 live with a substance use disorder.
Substance use disorder is a disease that results from complex behavioral, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Like other chronic diseases, addiction can be successfully treated. An accredited rehab program can help you heal from the physical and mental effects of your use and learn healthy ways to manage your emotions and triggers. You can find recovery and lead a healthy, productive life!
You can overcome addiction! Don’t let an outdated stigma keep you from getting the help you need. Bradford’s recovery advisors are available to call 24/7 at 888-762-3740.