How Do I Know if I’m an Addict?

You can determine if you're an addict by evaluating your substance use and lifestyle. If alcohol or other drugs cause problems in your life but you continue to compulsively use them anyway, you’re probably addicted.
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If you believe you may be addicted to drugs or alcohol, you can look for specific signs. Asking yourself the following questions about your substance use can help you determine if you have a substance use disorder.

Is your substance use becoming a concern to you or your loved ones? Do you face negative consequences stemming from your substance use? Are relationships suffering with people important to you? Are you having trouble completing responsibilities required by your job or school? If you are experiencing any of these difficulties as a result of your substance use, you may have an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Substance addiction is a chronic brain disease that affects individuals of every race, age group, nationality and socioeconomic background. Reflecting on your own substance use habits is vital to determining if you are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Identifying your addiction is the first step to healthy, substance-free living.

Robert Fishman of Advanced Recovery Systems explains how he knew he had an addiction and why he needed to seek treatment.

Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Substance Use

There are signs that can help you determine if you are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Problems with relationships, your job or school, and even legal issues stemming from substance use can indicate that you have an addiction. If your life has been affected by substance abuse in the following ways, you may have an addiction:

Strained Relationships

  • Has your drug or alcohol use negatively affected the relationships in your life?
  • Have you ever used drugs or alcohol to fit in or feel accepted among your peers or in social circles?
  • Have you ever lied to a family member or loved one about your substance use?

Regularly, the relationships of those with drug or alcohol addictions suffer as a result of their substance abuse. You may find yourself no longer associating with friends or family who do not use drugs or alcohol or who do not approve of your substance use. Using substances to fit in with a certain group is also a common trait of individuals with addictions. Additionally, lying to friends and family about your substance use due to shame or embarrassment indicates you may have an addiction.

Work or School Performance Suffering

  • Has your performance at work or school suffered as a result of your substance use?
  • Have you been unable to finish projects or assignments as a result your substance use?
  • Have you been fired from your job or expelled or suspended from school because of your substance use?

Individuals with drug and alcohol addictions often find it difficult to complete school or work responsibilities. Those struggling with addictions may have issues keeping a job or may find themselves in trouble at school, resulting in suspension or expulsion. If substance abuse has affected your work or school habits and hindered your performance at either, addiction may be the cause.

Social and Health Consequences

  • Do you continue to use substances despite negative consequences?
  • Have you ever used one substance to alleviate the effects of another?
  • Have you ever needed medical treatment as a result of substance abuse?
  • Have you faced health concerns as a result of drugs or alcohol but continued to use substances anyway?
  • Have drugs or alcohol left you unable to function properly or handle life’s responsibilities?
  • Have you ever overdosed or needed emergency medical treatment as a result of substance abuse?

Addiction to drugs or alcohol often leaves individuals unable to take care of themselves and can lead to a number of health issues. Answering yes to any of these questions can signal that you have a substance addiction.

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Crime and Deviant Behavior

  • Have you ever manipulated a doctor to attain prescription drugs?
  • Have you ever used substances without knowing what they were or what they would do to you?
  • Have you ever stolen substances or stolen something to pay for substances?
  • Have you acted erratically or felt not in control of your actions?

Addiction often drives reasonable individuals to uncharacteristic behavior and, in many cases, even crime. Faking a health condition to obtain prescription drugs, stealing from friends or family, and taking unknown substances are common among individuals struggling with addiction. If you find yourself acting out of character, committing crimes or doing things that hurt loved ones to satisfy your substance use habits, you likely have an addiction.

Substance Abuse Patterns

  • Do you use substances when alone?
  • Do you habitually use substances when you wake up or go to bed?
  • Do you use substances every day?

The frequency and amount of substances you use play a significant role in developing an addiction. Using substances daily and by yourself is a strong indicator you may have a substance addiction. Relying on substances as part of your daily routine, such as when you fall asleep or wake up in the morning, may also signal an addiction.

Cravings, Self-Medication and Physical Dependence

  • Do you think about drugs or alcohol often?
  • Have you ever tried to stop or reduce your substance use but could not?
  • Does the thought of running out of substances scare you?
  • Do you experience physical or mental discomfort while sober?
  • Have you ever used substances to cope with anger or sadness?
  • Have you ever used drugs or alcohol to treat or alleviate symptoms of a health condition?

Many people with addictions are consumed by the disease, and it takes over their lives. An addicted person may obsess about using substances when sober, using drugs or alcohol to treat another condition or escape from troubling emotions or thoughts. Those with substance use disorders may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when sober.

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Psychological dependency is also common among those with addictions. People with psychological dependence use drugs or alcohol to stimulate the brain’s pleasure center.

One of the most common signs of addiction is a compulsive desire to use substances, crowding out rational and responsible thinking. If you are unable to control your substance use or experience intense drug or alcohol cravings, you may have a substance use disorder.

What Should I Do if I Have an Addiction to Drugs or Alcohol?

Recognizing that you have a substance addiction is the most critical step in reaching recovery. Answering yes to some or all of the questions above could indicate that you have a substance abuse problem. If you identify any similar patterns to those above in your own habits, treatment for drug or alcohol addiction may be the right course for you.

Medical Disclaimer: aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Trey Dyer
Content Writer,
Trey Dyer is a writer for and an advocate for substance abuse treatment. Trey is passionate about sharing his knowledge and tales about his own family’s struggle with drug addiction to help others overcome the challenges that face substance dependent individuals and their families. Trey has a degree in journalism from American University and has been writing professionally since 2011.

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