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How Do I Know I’m an Addict?

In 2015, an estimated 20.8 million people aged 12 or older had a substance use disorder related to their misuse of alcohol or illicit drugs in the past year, including 15.7 million with an alcohol use disorder and 7.7 million with an illicit drug use disorder. Moreover, millions of people abused prescription drugs including pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives.1 Opioids (e.g. oxycodone and hydrocodone) and benzodiazepine sedatives (e.g. Valium, Xanax and Ativan) have a particularly high risk of addiction. In people struggling with misuse of drugs or alcohol, the question often arises, Am I addicted to drugs?

According to the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), a diagnosis of substance use disorder is based on evidence of impaired control, social impairment, risky use and pharmacological criteria. Gambling disorder is the only behavioral disorder officially classified with substance use disorders in DSM-5, however, addiction experts believe compulsive sex, internet and shopping behaviors are closely related. Existing clinical guidelines defining addiction are helpful, however, this only applies if a person seeks professional treatment. In 2015, only 3 million people (14%) who abused alcohol or drugs received treatment, which leaves the vast majority struggling, some of whom realize they are addicted, while others are in denial.2 Being aware of the signs of addiction can help family members and primary care physicians identify problems and help these individuals obtain appropriate treatment.

Questions to Ask a Recovering Drug Addict

Commonalities of all addictions include health problems; failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school or home; impaired control; social impairment; risky use and pharmacological effects on the brain (even in process addictions such as gambling disorder). Clinicians use many evidence-based tools to assess addictions and or relapse in recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. Among these are the NIDA Drug Use Screening Tool, Opioid Risk Tool and CAGE, which assesses four alcohol-specific areas, as follows.3

  • Cutting down on drinking: Have you ever felt you should cut down?
  • Annoyance because people criticized your drinking: Have you ever been annoyed when criticized for your drinking?
  • Guilty feelings: Have you ever felt guilty about your drinking?
  • Eye-openers: Have you ever felt the need to drink immediately in the morning?4

In addition to professional screening methods, a variety of self-assessment tools exist to help determine if a person is addicted or an addict in recovery is relapsing. These questions can be used in a family intervention or the person struggling with alcohol or drug misuse can administer this test themselves.4,5

  1. Do you feel a compulsion to consume drugs or alcohol to get through the day?
  2. Do you crave alcohol or drugs at a specific time every day?
  3. Have you ever sought medical attention because of your drug or alcohol use?
  4. Has anyone ever suggested you quit or cut back on drinking or taking drugs?
  5. Have you made promises to control drinking or using drugs and broken them?
  6. Have you tried multiple times to stop using without success?
  7. Has your performance at school, work or home been affected by your drug and alcohol consumption?
  8. Is your drinking or drug use jeopardizing your job or business?
  9. Has your drinking or drug use interfered or caused problems with personal relationships?
  10. Has drinking or drug use led to financial difficulties?
  11. Have you become less ambitious or productive since drinking or using drugs?
  12. Do you constantly think about the next time you can drink alcohol or take drugs?
  13. Have you suffered from memory loss after using drugs or alcohol?
  14. Are you able to drink or use more drugs now without feeling the repercussions, compared to when you first started?
  15. Do you experience withdrawal symptoms after a period of time in which you haven’t consumed drugs or alcohol?
  16. Do you go to extensive lengths to obtain drugs or alcohol?
  17. Do you remain intoxicated for several days at a time?
  18. Do you say or do things while intoxicated you later regret when sober?
  19. Is your drinking or drug use a means to escape worries or troubles?
  20. Do you drink or use drugs alone?
  21. Do you drink or use drugs because you are shy with other people?
  22. Do you drink or use drugs to build self-confidence?
  23. Are you experiencing sleeping problems due to drinking or drugs?
  24. Are you hanging out with old drinking or drug buddies you knew before rehab?
  25. Do you experience distress, anxiety, depression, restlessness or feelings of aggression when you don’t drink or use drugs?

If you answered yes to more than a few of the above questions, it is time to come to terms with your addiction and seek professional treatment. If you are ready to face your problem head on, the dedicated addiction experts at The Right Step are committed to helping you beat addiction every step of the way – from day one in rehab to long-term after care.

  1. Substance Use Disorders. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. https://www.samhsa.gov/disorders/substance-use Updated October 27, 2015. Accessed June 6, 2017.
  2. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2015/NSDUH-FFR1-2015/NSDUH-FFR1-2015.pdf Updated November 7, 2016. Accessed June 6, 2017.
  3. Chart of Evidence-Based Screening Tools for Adults and Adolescents. https://www.drugabuse.gov/nidamed-medical-health-professionals/tool-resources-your-practice/screening-assessment-drug-testing-resources/chart-evidence-based-screening-tools-adults Updated September 2015. Accessed June 6, 2017.
  4. Drug Addiction Assessment. Project Know website. http://www.projectknow.com/research/assessment/ Accessed June 6, 2017.

20-Question Addiction Questionnaire. Addict Science website. http://www.addictscience.com/20-question-addiction-questionnaire/ Accessed June 6, 2017.

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