Help! How Can I Tell If I’m Addicted to Drugs?

If you find yourself asking the question, Am I addicted to drugs? you should take the answer to that question very seriously. Unless recognized and treated, an addiction to a medication or illicit/illegal drug can greatly diminish your chances of leading a functional life, maintaining a daily routine or experiencing an enduring sense of well-being. Fortunately, you can perform a fairly accurate self-assessment of your drug-using status if you know the signs that indicate active addiction.

What Is Drug Addiction?

The potential for drug (and alcohol) addiction arises when your brain starts to treat the chemical changes triggered by your habitual substance intake as a normal operating condition. Experts in the field refer to this state as physical dependence. Physical dependence transitions into active addiction when you lose control over your ability to limit the number of times you use a given substance and/or your ability to limit the amount of that substance you take on any given occasion.

Signs to Look For

In addition to losing control over the frequency and amount of your drug intake, you may also experience a range of other problems that point to the presence of an addiction. Specific things you may notice include:

  • An intense desire for the drug
  • The need to increase your intake of the drug in order to keep feeling its effects
  • Establishment of drug use as your daily priority
  • Devotion of money to purchasing drugs even if it means failing to meet important financial obligations
  • A drug-based inability to meet other important personal, social, school-related or work-related responsibilities
  • Repeated use of drugs in situations that pose a clear danger to yourself or others
  • An inability to stop using a drug for any substantial amount of time, and
  • The appearance of withdrawal symptoms if you halt your drug use even briefly

Overlap With Substance Abuse

When trying to figure out if you are addicted to drugs, it’s crucial to understand that doctors and public health officials don’t make a firm distinction between drug addiction and non-addicted drug abuse. Even if you don’t have problems with physical dependence, you can experience changes in your thoughts and behaviors that significantly interfere with your ability to function or maintain a feeling of wellness. In fact, the guidelines currently used by doctors in the U.S. include the symptoms of addiction and non-addicted substance abuse in a single illness category called substance use disorder. There are subtypes of this disorder for alcohol and every major addictive drug/medication.


Mayo Clinic: Drug Addiction – Symptoms

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Substance Use Disorders


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