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How Can I Tell If I’m Addicted?


recognize the signs that you're addicted to drugs or alcohol

It can be difficult to determine if you are actually addicted to drugs or alcohol. Being aware of your own psychological and physical state of dependence can take time and lots of consideration, and in most cases, a doctor’s assessment is still necessary in order to determine with assurance whether or not one requires help. However, there are ways you can make this determination more easily, and one of them is to take our short Addiction Quiz.

If you take the quiz and find out you do in fact need help, let us assist you in finding the best treatment options for your safe recovery. Call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) today to learn about detox centers that offer the most effective care for your current needs.

Drug Use and Addiction

The use of addictive drugs and alcohol can always carry some dangers. After all, these substances change the way people act and think and can also have severe effects on an individual physically, especially when they use too much. Still, there is a different between substance abuse and addiction.

  • Some people might drink too much or experiment with drugs and not get addicted. This is because addiction doesn’t always occur on the first use. However, with some hardcore substances, like crack cocaine, it can (Center for Substance Abuse Research).
  • Most of the time, the risk of addiction is associated with continued, frequent drug abuse as well as certain variables like biological, environmental, and developmental factors. These conditions are why some people become addicted when they abuse drugs and others don’t.
  • In most cases, frequent, problematic drug abuse is what leads to addiction. People who use drugs and alcohol in large quantities often are the most likely to become addicted, but other factors can always weigh in.

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No matter what the case, though, any addictive substance can start working its dangerous effects on the individual the first time they start to abuse it. This is because the distinction between addiction and substance abuse is use that is out of the individual’s control.

  • When a person abuses a drug, it floods the brain with dopamine. This causes the individual to feel very good, which translates to a euphoric high in most cases. However, the individual will often “come down” afterwards, experiencing an exhausted or depressive state.
  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, when substances are abused over time in order to achieve this high, it changes the way the brain works. The brain begins to rely on the drug to create these euphoric effects and it becomes harder for the brain to produce its own neurotransmitters that are meant to regulate emotions. As such, the individual becomes dependent on the drug.
  • After dependence comes addiction. In most cases, the individual will have been abusing the drug for a long time and will begin to put that use ahead of anything else. Responsibilities, loved ones, and everything else will matter less to them than getting their next fix. They may also act dangerously, lie, steal, or do other things to ensure they get more of the drug. This is compulsive abuse, the hallmark of addiction.
  • Finally, the individual will be addicted to and dependent on the drug, which will not allow them to make their own decisions any longer. They will be unable to stop using the drug, even if they want to and even if they realize it is causing problems in their life. They will need help.

These are the clear distinctions between substance abuse and addiction. When a person has started abusing addictive substances and is not addicted yet, they should be able to stop on their own. Once they become addicted, treatment will be necessary.

The Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Being able to recognize addiction is important. Whether you are trying to tell if you might be addicted or if someone you love could be suffering from this condition, the more you know, the clearer the picture becomes.

The Physical Signs of Addiction

For the most part, different drugs of abuse have different physical signs. Still, you can begin to determine if someone is grappling with this issue if they are showing more than one of these signs consistently. They include

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Small or large pupils (depending on the substance)
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Dropping or gaining a lot of weight suddenly and without warning
  • Being sick all the time, as in runny nose, coughing, sneezing, etc.
  • Strange smells on one’s breath or clothes
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble walking or coordination problems
  • Shaking
  • You are also likely to notice physical symptoms as the result of a number of different withdrawal syndromes. For example, the National Library of Medicine states that opioid withdrawal looks similar to the flu. Alcohol withdrawal can cause a person to experience severe tremors while benzodiazepine withdrawal can also cause seizures.

The Psychological Signs of Addiction

You will be able to recognize these more readily if you are checking yourself for addiction. When you start to realize that the way you think and feel is changing, this can be a strong sign of a serious substance use disroder. The symptoms include

  • Feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, etc. when you are unable to use drugs
  • The intense desire for drug abuse, also known as cravings
  • A need for more of the drug to create the same effects a smaller dose used to create, also known as tolerance
  • Apathy toward activities, people, and other things that used to matter to you
  • Sudden and unexplainable mood swings
  • A lack of motivation toward your work, school, hobbies, etc.

The Behavioral Signs of Addiction

When people become addicted to drugs, their behaviors change. Since their feelings, emotions, and priorities change, this makes sense. Some of the common symptoms are

  • Making excuses to use drugs or alcohol (NLM)
  • No longer caring about your physical appearance or hygiene
  • Acting secretively in order to hide substance abuse—or the extent of it—from others
  • Using drugs even when you are by yourself
  • Missing out on important responsibilities (such as work or school) to use drugs

Any and all of these signs could be indicators of dangerous drug abuse that has become addictive. But even if you recognize some of these in yourself, it is important to truly question whether or not you may have a full-blown addiction. Take our Addiction Quiz now to learn the truth.

What If I Am an Addict?

Of course it is helpful to ask yourself if your substance abuse may have gotten out of control and even if you may require treatment. However, make sure to let a medical professional analyze you for a substance use disorder, whether in treatment or in a doctor’s office. According to Medical News Today, doctors administer bloods tests and use the DSM criteria to determine if a patient has a substance use disorder. This is the only way to know for sure if you are suffering from addiction.

If you are, in fact, an addict, the important thing to remember is that you have given yourself a great gift. You have admitted that you have a problem. Now, you must take the next step, which is asking for help.

  • Addicted individuals can’t put a stop to their substance abuse without help. Even if they try, they will have a high likelihood of relapse because of their intense attachment to the drug (NIDA). Also, addiction is similar to other chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma. As such, this means it requires proper treatment.
  • Treatment for addiction often starts with detox. Detox allows the patient to formally undergo withdrawal so they will no longer be dependent on the drug. The process occurs under the supervision of medical practitioners so it is safe. In addition, the patient will begin the transition from detox to rehab. Detox alone is not a treatment for addiction. It only helps the patient put an end to their dependence. As a result, it must be followed by rehab or another form of professional medical care.
  • Those who undergo proper treatment may require more than one treatment stint in order to build a strong recovery, and they may deal with the fallout of addiction for many years to come. However, the NIDA states that those who do seek professional care see overwhelmingly better results in recovery than those who do not.

How Do I Find Out If I Am Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol?

You can take our Addiction Quiz to find out if you are likely a candidate for addiction treatment. While it is not the same as a doctor’s assessment, it is still effective at helping substance abusers determine if their use has become problematic, dangerous, and compulsive. Once you take the quiz, call 800-996-6135(Who Answers?) .

Our treatment advisors are available to discuss the quiz with you as well as your results. They can also help you find proper detox and rehab treatment centers and determine which options will best suit your needs. Don’t wait; your recovery can start today.


  1. Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2002). Crack Cocaine.
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Understanding Drug Use and Addiction.
  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Opiate and Opioid Withdrawal.
  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2018). Substance Use Disorder.
  5. Medical News Today. (2016). How Is Addiction Diagnosed?
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction: The Basics.
  7. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition)- How Effective Is Drug Addiction Treatment?
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