If you think you may have an addiction but aren’t sure, making a self-diagnosis is a matter of understanding exactly what addiction is and knowing the signs and symptoms associated with it.
Drug and alcohol abuse is a major public health concern. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids points out that 23.5 million Americans are addicted to drugs and alcohol, but only 11 percent get the help they need to overcome an addiction.1 The cost of treatment, a lack of insurance, and the stigma associated with drug and alcohol addiction are common reasons why some people avoid treatment.
In other cases, it’s a lack of understanding of the disease that precludes people from getting help, simply because they may not realize they need it. Many people believe that willpower alone can help them stop using drugs or alcohol, but relying on willpower and good intentions to curb an addiction almost always leads to a relapse.
This simple guide will help you make a self-diagnosis to assist you in determining what your next steps should be. As always, any self-diagnosis should be followed by a professional evaluation.
Understanding Abuse vs. Addiction
Drug abuse is the practice of using legal or illegal psychoactive substances in a way that causes negative consequences. These often include engaging in risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence or having unprotected sex; getting into trouble with the law; experiencing problems at home, work or school; health problems and problems with interpersonal relationships.
Drug abuse can lead to addictions, which is characterized by compulsive drug or alcohol use despite the negative consequences. If you’re addicted, you’ll probably find that you’re unable to stop using drugs or alcohol even though you want to or have tried to.
Signs and Symptoms of Addiction: Self-Diagnosis
Addiction is a brain disease. It’s brought about by biological, environmental, behavioral and genetic influences, and it gets progressively worse if it’s not treated. Addictions change the structures and functions of the brain and affects thought processes and behaviors. Some of the signs and symptoms of addiction include:
- Intense cravings for drugs or alcohol.
- Using drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences to health, relationships, finances or legal status.
- Spending a great deal of time thinking about using alcohol or drugs, seeking them out, using them and recovering from the use.
- Neglecting responsibilities at home, school or work.
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed.
- Withdrawing from friends and family.
- Trying to hide the extent of your drug or alcohol abuse from others.
- Increasingly neglecting personal hygiene.
- The onset of withdrawal symptoms when the drug of abuse is withheld from the body, which indicates you’ve developed a physical dependence on the drug.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, overcoming an addiction for the long-term almost always requires professional help.2
You Can Beat an Addiction
It’s not easy to overcome an addiction, but it can be done with professional help and a lot of support from friends and family members. A high-quality treatment program will begin with medical detox to address the physical dependence and to begin to restore brain functioning back to normal. But detox doesn’t address the addiction, which is far more complex.
Various alternative and traditional therapies are typically used to treat the addiction, which requires identifying the underlying issues surrounding the drug abuse, identifying and changing unhealthy ways of thinking and behaving and developing skills and strategies to help you cope with cravings, stress and other triggers.
Treatment will do more than just help you stop using drugs or alcohol. It will increase your level of self-awareness, help you identify a purpose in life and improve your self-esteem, all of which are central to long-term recovery.
If you think you have an addiction, or if you’re worried that your drug or alcohol abuse may be leading you toward developing one, a high-quality treatment program can help you curb your drug abuse and restore your sense of well-being.