Am I An Addict?

Have you ever wondered to yourself, “am I an addict?” Maybe you find yourself always looking for the next thrill or high, or you find yourself unable to make it through the day without some form of substance use. But what exactly factors into being an addict? Is it a mindset, behavior, or something else entirely?


What is Addiction?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a chronic medical disease. Understanding addiction as a disease first helps us establish a more firm and realistic understanding of what individuals struggling with addiction are experiencing. Addiction is not simply a condition that comes and goes, but rather a disease that requires both medical and therapeutic treatment.

Addiction is incredibly complex and considers an individual’s brain chemistry as well as their genetic predispositions. It can also be influenced by outside factors such as an individual’s environment and circumstances that affect their day-to-day life.


Dependence or Addiction?

You may find that terms like “dependence” and “addiction” are used interchangeably at times, but the reality is that they refer to different aspects of substance use disorders. Understanding the distinction between them is important for recognizing and moving forward in treatment for these conditions.

Dependence is a physiological state that can occur with regular use of certain substances, including both legal (e.g., prescription medications) and illegal drugs.

Addiction, on the other hand, is a complex disease of the brain’s reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. It is marked by compulsive behavior, loss of control, and a negative emotional state.

Addiction involves both a psychological component as well as a behavioral one. It is possible for someone to be dependent on a substance without being addicted to it. For example, someone can develop tolerance and dependence on prescription medications (such as opioids for pain management) as directed by a doctor, without the compulsive behaviors and loss of control that characterize addiction.


11 Signs of Addiction

Still unsure if what you’re experiencing is dependence or addiction? Let’s look at the 11 most common signs of addiction, which each include questions you can ask yourself to assess your own health. If at least two of these 11 signs have been present in the span of one year, it is highly possible that what you are experiencing is addiction.

1. Inability to Stop Using (Regardless of Attempts or Desires)

  • Have you found yourself desiring sobriety or attempting to quit at least once?
  • Did the desire to continue using overcome your desire for sobriety?
  • Did you find that attempts to quit lead, at some point, to relapse?

2. Increase in Dosage or Usage

  • Have you found that you’re using a substance more than you originally intended? This can include larger doses or more frequent usage.
  • Alternatively, have your behaviors surrounding substance use changed? For example, did substance use begin as a social activity and transform into something more akin to a need?

3. Substance Cravings

  • Do you find it difficult to avoid thinking about a substance after the effects have worn off?
  • Do you actively look forward to or crave your next opportunity to use a substance?

Note that cravings are typically tied to triggers, which refer to specific elements, such as emotions, events, or people, that cause us to want or need to use a substance. The trigger is the cause, and the craving is the effect.

4. Increased Effort to Acquire Substances

  • Do you spend a great deal of time thinking of ways to acquire more of a substance?
  • Do you prioritize the purchasing of a substance over the purchase of necessities such as food or bills?
  • Do you find that you spend a good portion of your day recovering from substance abuse?

5. Prioritization Over Previously Enjoyed Activities

  • Have you lost sight of the value in certain social or recreational activities that previously brought you joy or fulfillment?
  • Have you stopped participating in those activities in favor of activities that involve or allow for substance use?
  • Do you find it difficult to enjoy social or recreational activities when not feeling the effects of a substance?

6. Repeated Substance Use in Hazardous Situations

  • Have you put yourself in a dangerous or hazardous position when using a substance? (For example, this could include operating heavy machinery or driving a vehicle while under the influence.)
  • Have you continued to practice this behavior in spite of known danger to yourself and others?

7. Continued Use in Spite of Known Consequences to Personal Wellness

  • Do you recognize that your substance use is causing negative emotional or physical consequences? For example, addiction can often lead to increased mental illness or medical conditions.
  • Do you continue to prioritize substance use over improving your personal wellness?

8. Continued Use in Spite of Known Negative Impact on Relationships and Opportunities

  • Has your substance use led to interpersonal issues? These issues may be between friends, family members, peers, and employers.
  • Do you continue to prioritize substance use over your important relationships and employment opportunities?

9. Failure to Meet Responsibilities Due to Substance Use

  • Has substance use caused you to drop the ball on more than one occasion? Are you becoming less reliable to your friends, family members, peer, and employers?
  • Do you find that people who once considered you a trustworthy person no longer expect you to stay true to your word?

10. Increased Tolerance to Substance

As we mentioned earlier, dependence typically leads to tolerance, although it is not always easy to detect a growing tolerance within ourselves.

  • Do you find that the effects of a substance don’t seem to be as strong anymore?
  • Can you (or do you need to) consume a substance more frequently or in larger amounts than you could in the past in order to feel the full effect?

11. Experience of Withdrawal Symptoms After Substance Wears Off

Withdrawal symptoms are often one of the triggers that lead to cravings.

  • Do you find that as a substance wears off, you feel sick, irritable, or restless?
  • Does consuming a substance alleviate those feelings in ways that other factors (like sleep or food) don’t?


What Does Recovery Look Like?

If you can identify two or more symptoms above that you struggle with personally, it is likely that you are experiencing addiction. The good news is that you can recover from an addiction, and there are many forms recovery can take.

One form is medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This method combines FDA-approved medical treatment with counseling and behavioral therapy to deliver what we call the “whole patient” approach.

Other forms of treatment include our inpatient or outpatient programs at Cumberland Heights. Our inpatient care allows you to experience recovery on our 177-acre River Road campus, where you’ll be immersed into a transformative treatment plan and surrounded by others who are on their own journey to recovery. Our outpatient programs are also an option for those who want to maintain a level of normalcy within their daily routines at home while still experiencing world-class levels of care throughout their recovery.

There are many treatment options available to you within Cumberland Heights, and we are here to help you find the best fit for your needs.


What Should I Do if I Think I (or Someone I Love) is An Addict?

If you suspect that you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Cumberland Heights is here to help. You may feel lost if addiction is something you are facing for the first time, and dealing with a loved one’s addiction can be overwhelming as well. The most important step toward recovery is reaching out for help, making that call or submitting a contact form.

Here at Cumberland Heights, we have a professional addiction treatment team that is experienced in diagnosing cases of substance abuse including those individuals who also suffer from co-occurring disorders.

Contact Cumberland Heights today to learn more about the different types of programs we offer and how you or a loved one can take the first step toward recovery today.

Call us at 866-899-5112 or contact us here to inquire further about treatment at Cumberland Heights.