Question #1: Do you often use drugs or alcohol in larger amounts or over a longer period than you intended?
If you have been struggling with addiction, you might repeatedly vow to cut back on the amount you use or the frequency of use. You might say to yourself, “Tonight I’m only having a couple of beers, then I’m heading home.” Or, “I’m not going to smoke at all this month, I really need to take a break,” only to find yourself unable to control your intake for more than a day or two. If you use drugs and alcohol more frequently than intended, there is a good chance you are struggling with a substance use disorder.
Question #2: Have you wanted to cut back on drugs or alcohol or made unsuccessful attempts to do so?
A lack of control over your intake is a good indication treatment has become necessary. Over time, the chemistry of your brain physically changes. Substance use becomes a compulsion rather than a matter of choice. As you develop a physical tolerance, you also begin to experience symptoms of withdrawal when you stop using your substance of choice. This can easily turn into a vicious and uncontrollable cycle — one which can only be successfully stopped with professional intervention.
Question #3: Do you spend a great deal of time finding, using, or recovering from using?
A preoccupation with your substance of choice is a good indication a serious issue has developed. If you spend the majority of your day thinking about using, obtaining your drug of choice and recovering from its effects, professional help is likely necessary.
Question #4: Do you have strong urges or powerful cravings to use drugs or alcohol?
Psychological cravings can come on quickly and completely overwhelm you. You might find you are unable to concentrate on the task at hand because you’re so preoccupied with your next drink or your next high.
Question #5: Has your use of drugs or alcohol resulted in your inability to meet your obligations at work, home or school?
Many people who struggle with addiction find it difficult to take care of basic daily tasks, like completing work-related responsibilities — or even showing up at all. Take an honest look at how your substance use is impacting other parts of your life.
Question #6: Have you had to cut back on or abandon social, professional or recreational activities due to your use of drugs or alcohol?
Some people who struggle with addiction tell themselves things like, “I didn’t really like that job anyway,” or, “I think I’ve grown out of this hobby, I’m going to quit and find a new one when the time is right.” In reality, they are abandoning things they used to hold in high esteem so they can prioritize drug and alcohol use. If you have recently strayed away from activities you used to enjoy, ask yourself why.
Question #7: Have you repeatedly used drugs or alcohol when it was hazardous to do so, such as while driving a car?
People who struggle with addiction often experience an increase of risk-taking activities at the hands of their substance use. They might get behind the wheel of a car after drinking or taking pills, combine substances which shouldn’t be combined or spend time with a group of “seedy” characters. If you have been straying away from your personal norm and doing things you wouldn’t normally do, it could be because you’re struggling with a diagnosable substance use disorder.
Question #8: Have you experienced social or relationship problems due to your substance use and kept using anyway?
If you have been struggling with a substance use disorder, you likely feel isolated, alone and misunderstood. Maybe you have pushed your loved ones away, or your friends and family members simply can’t stand to be around you. If you have been experiencing strained interpersonal relationships as a result of your substance use it might be time to reach out for help.
Question #9: Have you kept using drugs or alcohol knowing that it has caused or worsened physical or mental health issues?
Maybe your primary care physician has recommended you cut back on your intake, but you have found yourself unable to do so. Maybe you have started to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression. Continuing to use drugs and alcohol despite awareness these substances are doing harm is a good indication of a progressive addiction.
Question #10: When you attempt to cut back on or stop your use of drugs or alcohol, have you experienced uncomfortable physical or mental health symptoms (withdrawal)?
As your body becomes accustomed to the presence of a chemical substance, your system goes into shock if this substance is no longer present. This is why symptoms of withdrawal develop, and why many people continue to use their substance of choice despite negative consequences. Entering into a medical detox center allows you to undergo a safe and pain-free drug or alcohol withdrawal.
Question #11: Have you needed more drugs or alcohol to feel the effects you’re seeking (tolerance)?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Tolerance happens when a person no longer responds to a drug in the way they did at first. So it takes a higher dose of the drug to achieve the same effect as when the person first used it. This is why people with substance use disorders use more and more of a drug to get the ‘high’ they seek.”