When we think of substance abuse, we may picture someone who’s a so-called “addict:” life completely ruined, poor health, can’t hold a job, etc. However, this is not always the case. Maybe the person who struggles with alcohol or drug abuse/misuse is your friend, a coworker, or someone you interact with in the community. Oftentimes, we may not realize that others, or even ourselves, have a problem with drugs or alcohol. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders no longer uses the term “addiction” due to the negative connotations associated with this word. We now classify someone who struggles with drugs or alcohol as having a substance use disorder. However, some individuals who struggle with substance use disorders find it to be helpful to identify as an addict as they relate to others who may have similar experiences.
How do I know if I have a substance use disorder? Substance use disorders are divided into three different levels of severity: mild, moderate, and severe. The following criteria may help you to determine whether you struggle with a substance use disorder:
1. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control use of the substance.
3. A great deal of time is spent to obtain, consume and recover from a substance.
4. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the substance, occurs.
5. Continued use of the substance results in a failure to fulfill major role responsibilities at work, school or home.
6. Use of the substance is contributing to relationship problems.
7. Important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of the use of the substance.
8. Use of the substance is recurrent in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g., driving while intoxicated).
9. Continuing to use the substance despite knowing that it has an impact on physical or psychological problems likely caused by the substance (e.g., drinking with a liver condition or using opioids when depressed or anxious).
10. Tolerance, which means that the person needs more of a substance to get a desired effect, or the same amount of a substance doesn’t produce the desired effect any longer.
11. Withdrawal, such that when the substance is not taken, a person experiences substance-specific withdrawal symptom.
If you identify with 2 or more of these statements over a 12-month period, you may have a substance use disorder. For an accurate diagnosis, please meet with a licensed mental health professional, who will be able to help assist you in determining the next steps in your recovery journey.