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The American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), states that a substance use disorder diagnosis is based on evidence such as reduced control, impairment socially, pharmacological criteria and risky use. But what does this mean and how do you know if you have a problem?

Drug abuse is a slippery slope but there are certain key identifying factors that indicate an underlying issue: persistent use despite negative consequences, cravings to use the substance, compulsive behaviour and the deterioration of personal relationships, finances, legal issues, housing and other aspects of life.

How do I know if I have a drug problem?

Do you take drugs to dampen an underlying emotional issue?  Whatever the reason, any habit-forming drug, even if only taken experimentally, can lead to an active addiction. Here are ten questions which may help you understand whether or not you have a drug problem:

  1. Do you sense an overriding compulsion to take drugs or alcohol just to make it through the day?
  2. Do you crave drugs or alcohol at a specific point during the day?
  3. Have you ever gotten medical attention due to your alcohol or drug use?
  4. Has someone you know previously suggested you cut back or quit on taking drugs  or drinking?
  5. Have you promised to control using drugs or drinking and broken these promises?
  6. Have you attempted (more than once) to stop using without success?
  7. Has your performance work, school or home been affected by your alcohol and drug use?
  8. Is your drug use or drinking jeopardising your business or job?
  9. Has your drug use or drinking interfered with relationships?
  10. Has drug use or drinking led to financial difficulties?

If you have a problem drugs may have also caused you to become  less ambitious or productive. Can you relate to this? It may also have started to consume your mind and you find yourself constantly thinking about the next time you can use. Memory loss might be a problem and increased use or tolerance. You may also notice your behaviour has changed and the following elements are present:

  • Withdrawal symptoms after time has passed in which you haven’t consumed alcohol or drugs
  • Going to lengths to find drugs or alcohol
  • Binges, or remaining intoxicated for days in a row
  • Using alcohol or drugs to escape troubles or worries
  • Using as a means of social lubrication, to build confidence or take away social anxiety
  • Sleeping problems
  • Panic, distress, restlessness and worry if you cannot use

What is the difference between being psychologically addicted/dependent and physiologically addicted/dependent?

  • Psychological dependence means that you rely on a sense of wellbeing or satisfaction provided by the drug. You get strong, repetitive urges (cravings) to take the drug to get these effects. If the drug is not taken, then bad emotions like depression, anxiety, panic, anger, and so on, kick in. You have very little control over it – These are mental withdrawal symptoms.
  • Physical dependence is the result of your body adapting to the drug. There will be damage to organs. The body (and brain) will also stop doing certain things if the drug is not replenished. When the drug is not taken on schedule, things like nausea, diarrhea, tremors, headache, fever, convulsions (and even death) take place – These are physical withdrawal symptoms.

By now you should have an indication of whether or not you have a substance use problem.

Drug addiction is caused by changes in thought patterns and body functions. You feel a strong, compulsive, persistent craving – first to get the pleasant mental and/or physical upliftment from the drug, and then you have to take it again – to dampen the mental and physical withdrawal reactions that hit you when the drug wears off.

Over time, you need bigger doses to get the same relief that you felt during previous sessions. Alternatively, you can take small doses more often, but the overall consumption must always grow to maintain the satisfaction level. This is called “increased tolerance” – it is like a snowball rolling down a slope – it gets bigger and bigger until it becomes unstoppable and destructive, unless you get help to stop it.

The physical and mental effects, symptoms and withdrawals differ from one drug to the next and people differ too, but addiction, itself, follows a familiar pattern.

Some drugs energise you, while others bring tranquility or fantasy. All these sensations are overpowering, but artificial (false). They take your body and mind beyond the bounds that nature and common sense dictate. It lends short periods of “escape” from reality. It relieves you of emotional stress and inhibitions. As such, people find these short sessions enjoyable.

As soon as the short term euphoria wears off, the damage created by the drug releases a backlash that makes you really sick, both physically and mentally. With some drugs the mental withdrawals are stronger, while others have stronger physical withdrawals.

People become addicted to legal and illegal drugs.

Popular legal, habit-forming drugs include alcohol, cough syrups, sinus tablets, painkillers, tranquillisers and other prescription medicines (often “harvested” from random doctors under false pretences or bought on the black market). Household items like methylated spirits, gases, solvents, glue and petrol can also trigger addiction. Tobacco and caffeine are well known. However, for the purposes of this discussion, they are not in the same class as the aforementioned substances.

The most common illegal drugs are; cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms and meth, but there are many other compounds. Preferences fluctuate between countries, age groups, incomes and what is trending at the time.

  • Most people who experiment with drugs begin by thinking that they can stop when it suits them.
  • Anybody can develop an addiction. Some fall quickly, others survive longer. It is a leap into darkness – there is no way to know how long or how much it will take for you to become addicted.
  • Emotions, environment, genes, pain, peer pressure and ignorance all play roles in abuse development. It takes professional help to untangle and fix it.
  • The main driver is a need to “escape”. There are multitudes of things to escape from. At first, you experience relief. Later, the addiction is a bigger problem than the original problem.
  • You tend to remember only the good feeling you had the first time and other factors are ignored.
  • You have to take more and more as time passes – it is a relentless downward spiral.
  • It destroys all facets of your life and can damage other people too.
  • Self-regulation (trying to reduce or stop by yourself) is futile. Even if you survive the initial withdrawals, crippled emotions drive you back after a while, unless you are professionally mentored to enjoy life without drugs.
  • The best solution is help from a rehab facility that uses efficient, modern, meaningful techniques to ensure long-term sobriety and happiness.

Thanks for visiting Recovery Direct. Western Cape’s leading treatment centre for drug and alcohol and behavioural disorder treatment such as common eating disordersgambling and sex addiction. The rooting operators of dependency and destructive responses are normally rooted in pain and trauma endured often in physical form or emotionally.

If you are concerned about a drug problem, it is essential to discuss it with an experienced addiction therapist. Our specialist led trauma help centre operates by being aware of your special goals and serving to help you create the best tools to continue.

Many thanks for checking out this article. We hope you discovered something of worth and merit through the information. Please can you kindly send this with any person which you feel may also benefit.

It can be daunting to confront somebody, even yourself, about a drug problem. Please feel free to call the number at the top of this page to discuss the situation. We have well established routines for dealing with such matters. Your call will be handled confidentially.