It can be difficult to identify whether drinking or drug use has become an addiction because it often starts slowly and escalates over time. You may not even be aware that you have a problem until it has progressed significantly.
It’s important to be able to identify addiction so you can get the help you need if you find you no longer have control over your substance use. Crossing the line between substance use and addiction isn’t a clear-cut process, but there are some general signs that you may have a problem.
The following are some of the most common signs and symptoms associated with addiction:
- Withdrawal: If you go without using substances for an extended period (e.g., days or weeks) and experience withdrawal symptoms, this is a symptom of addiction.
- Tolerance: When you need to use more of a substance to get the same effects, it’s an indicator that your body has adapted itself to tolerate larger amounts of substances. This often occurs after consistent substance use over time. If you are using substances at higher doses without realizing it, this is a sign of addiction.
- Loss of Control: You may find yourself using substances more often than you intended or in situations where you know that it is not safe to do so (e.g., driving). This is an indicator that you may have lost control over your substance use.4
- Negative Consequences: Substance use can lead to a variety of negative consequences, such as job loss, financial troubles, relationship issues, health problems, and more. If you are experiencing these types of problems related to substance use, it may be a sign of addiction.
The CAGE questionnaire is a simple tool that can help identify an addiction to alcohol:
- Have you ever felt the need to Cut down on your drinking?
- Have you ever been Annoyed by criticism of your drinking?
- Have you ever felt Guilty about your drinking?
- Have you ever had an Eye-opener first thing in the morning?
If you answer “Yes” to two or more of these questions, the possibility of alcohol addiction is significant.
Alcohol use disorder is defined as a problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress as manifested by symptoms such as cravings, tolerance, withdrawal, spending a substantial amount of time finding and consuming alcohol, and more.
If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s substance use, it’s important to get help.
There are many different types of addiction treatment available, and the right program will depend on the person’s individual needs. These are some general treatment approaches that can be helpful for addiction:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps address distorted thinking and behaviors, such as inaccurate beliefs and self-defeating patterns of behavior. This type of therapy is often combined with other forms of treatment to help people gain control over their substance use problems.
Motivational Interviewing: This is a type of intervention that helps build motivation to change substance use behaviors and increase self-efficacy. The therapist works with the client to explore his or her reasons for substance use as well as the positive and negative effects of such behaviors.
Group Therapy: Group therapy is another effective treatment approach for addiction. Group sessions allow individuals to connect with others dealing with similar substance use problems and learn from each other’s experiences.
Support Groups: There are many types of support groups available for addiction, such as 12-step programs or SMART Recovery. These groups offer a safe and supportive environment where people can share their experiences and learn from others.