Sometimes the line between enjoyment and addiction can be very fuzzy, especially in our culture that promotes alcohol to remedy everything from joy to stress and sadness. You may think to yourself, “Everyone drinks this much,” or “If I can stop when I want, it’s not an addiction.” But how do you know if you’ve crossed over that line and it’s time to get help?
Experts have defined eleven official criteria that determine if you have an addiction or not. Read on to learn more and get addiction help if you need to.
Lack of Control
One of the first signs that you’ve become addicted to a substance is losing control when you use it. Whether your addiction is drinking, drugs, gambling, or Pringles, you find that once you start, you can’t stop. You have a hard time saying no when the temptation arises, and you never indulge just a little.
Do you frequently start an evening only intending to drink a little and wind up blackout drunk before you go to bed? Do you feel like you could be around other people gambling and not gamble yourself? Have you found yourself using drugs without even stopping to think, not sure anymore why you’re doing it?
Inability to Quit
Of course, one of the defining characteristics of addiction is that you can’t easily quit your drug of choice. Many of us enjoy having a drink or two at the end of a long week at work. But what happens if you tell yourself you’re going to stop drinking for a specific period of time?
Many addicts think they can quit any time they want until they’re actually faced with that necessity. If you think you may be addicted to something, try avoiding it for two weeks. If you can’t make it through the month without indulging, it may be time to reevaluate your relationship with the substance you use.
When it comes right down to it, your priorities in life are determined by how much time you spend on different things. While this truth often applies to work, family, or friends, it also applies to addiction. The more time you spend on your habit, the more likely it is that it’s an addiction.
It’s important to note that spending time on your addiction doesn’t just include the time you spend actually using. It can also include all the time you spend thinking about how to indulge your addiction. You may think all day about what you’re going to drink that night, plan how you’ll hide your substance use from your loved ones, or daydream about using during work hours.
Cravings often go hand in hand with the time you spend thinking about your addiction. It’s normal to think about wanting a drink or having a good time now and then. But cravings go beyond a simple thought and into a powerful force that distracts you during your day and that you can’t seem to shake.
You may notice that you’re on edge and irritated until you give in and satisfy your craving. You might feel some physical effects, such as shaking, fatigue, or sweatiness. A craving is a physical need that can leave you almost unhinged the longer you go without indulging your addiction.
Lack of Responsibility
In the face of such powerful cravings and loss of control, you might start to notice your responsibilities falling by the wayside. Before your addiction began, you never would have considered skipping out on work, school, or important family events. You paid your bills every month, showed up for your family, and stayed on the right side of the law.
Once your addiction begins to take over, those responsibilities may not seem so important anymore. You may find yourself skipping work more often, especially to indulge your addiction. You may start playing fast and loose with money and even considering committing crimes to get your hands on your substance.
Problems with Relationships
It should come as no surprise that all of the criteria we’ve discussed so far can cause problems in your personal relationships. Your family will notice that you’re changing, and they may even feel the impact of your reckless behavior. Your boss and coworkers will see that work isn’t a top priority for you anymore and may resent having to pick up the slack.
If you have a romantic partner, you might notice that you’re fighting more often or that your relationship seems more distant. Your friends may start to withdraw from you or may ask you to stop using. You may find yourself in trouble at work more frequently, and you might even lose your job.
Loss of Interest
As your addiction gains more of a grip over your life, you may notice your interest in other things fading away. Before you started using, you might have enjoyed spending time with your family, going to sporting events, volunteering in your community, or making art. Maybe you went for runs, watched every movie Kevin Costner was ever in or sang in your local church choir.
But as you begin to use more and more, those things may fade away. All you can think about is your addiction, feeding it, and hiding it from the people in your life. You may not feel the same level of passion for your hobbies as before, and you might have trouble getting interested in trying new hobbies.
When it comes to drinking and gambling, there’s always some low level of risk involved. And before your addiction began, you may have managed those risks well. You might have set aside money to gamble with or made sure you had a designated driver available for nights when you would be drinking.
But the more your addiction grows, the more likely you are to make dangerous choices when you’re using. You may drive when you’re drunk or overdose on the drug you’re using. You might start to gamble money that was set aside for your mortgage or even resort to dangerous lifestyle choices to indulge your addiction.
It may come as no surprise that drinking or using drugs too much can take a serious toll on your body. If you overdose or get alcohol poisoning, you may land in the hospital with some acute problems. And withdrawal symptoms can wreak all sorts of havoc on your body’s major systems.
But in addition to the more immediate physical problems, substance abuse can have serious long-term consequences. Drinking or using drugs can cause everything from heart and liver problems to seizures and psychological disorders. Even gambling can cause depression, sleep deprivation, and anxiety.
As you use your substance more and more, you might notice that it takes more for you to feel a “high.” If you’re using drugs, this high may be literal; if you’re gambling, you may have to spend more money to get the same rush. If you’re drinking, you may have to drink more or harder liquor to feel drunk.
Over time, your body will build up a tolerance for whatever substance you’re using. While some degree of this is natural, especially with drinking alcohol, an excess can be an indicator that you’re using too much too often. If you have to drink six beers to feel a buzz, you probably have an addiction.
The final criteria used to determine if someone is an addict is if they go through withdrawal. Withdrawal is related to the physiological dependence your body has on the substance you use. When you go too long without it, your major systems can be thrown into disarray as your body fights to adjust to the change.
Withdrawal can be hazardous and can start within a matter of hours after you stop using. You may experience convulsions, fevers, vomiting, chills, and body aches. If you plan to quit using, make sure you seek medical help to see you safely through withdrawal.
Get Addiction Help
No one wants to admit they have an addiction, but if the criteria we’ve listed here sound familiar, it may be time to admit you have a problem. These are the signs doctors and medical professionals look for to define when someone is an addict. Once you admit that you have an addiction, you can start getting the help you need.
If you’d like to get addiction help today, check out the rest of our site at Cenikor. We are a place for change working to create better health and better lives. Contact us today and start getting the help you need, knowing you are not alone fighting your addiction.