Anything can become an addiction. But when you use drugs, it’s important to keep in mind that, if left unchecked, that addiction can quickly become a problem.
So what do you do if think you or a loved one might have a problem?
Use this resource as a guide.
Addiction can happen before you know it. You need to really take a look at your drug use and be honest with yourself when evaluating whether or not that drug use has become a problem.
Start by asking yourself one simple question: “Do you sometimes think you have a drug problem?” If the answer is yes, you probably do have an issue with addiction. Why?
Most of the time, drug abusers deny they have a problem, or they hide from it by making excuses. It’s a natural reaction to defend yourself and your behaviors. But your defenses break down once in a while. So if you sometimes think you have a problem, you almost certainly do.
Think about how you feel the morning after heavy using. Your body aches, your head is cloudy, you feel guilty for over-using and promise yourself you’ll stop. You decide that you won’t be using drugs that day. You feel beaten and broken and want to do something about it. Your defenses are down and you are vulnerable to your own rational thoughts.
As the day goes on, though, your defenses start coming back up again and you begin excusing yourself for the previous day’s binge. You start to make excuses for your over-indulgence. You tell yourself you were having a bad day, you didn’t eat enough, you were really stressed out, or some other excuse.
You decide to let yourself use “just a little.” After all, you were having a bad day yesterday. Today won’t be the same. And the cycle continues.
You may go through this hundreds of times before you recognize that there’s a pattern going on. Almost all drug abusers go through this cycle. When you decide to really face the possibility that you have a problem, how do you identify it? The answer is really quite simple.
You have a problem when you use too much, too often, and the use is out of control. But you have to be your own judge and be honest with yourself. Pay attention to your feelings. You may want to write down how you feel about your drug use. Sometimes seeing the words can help you face the problem and start helping yourself.
Let’s take a look at a few questions that can help you identify if you have a drug problem. Answer the following questions honestly.
- Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drug use?
- Do you ever use drugs when you’re alone?
- Have you ever used more of a drug than you intended in a given period of time?
- Have you ever used drugs for a longer period of time than you originally intended?
- Have you ever used more than one drug at a time?
- Concerning your use of drugs, has anyone ever told you that you use too much?
- Have you ever taken one drug to overcome the effects of another?
- Have you ever thought that your life might be better if you didn’t take drugs?
- Have you ever felt angry at yourself or guilty because of your drug use?
- Do you regularly use a drug at certain times of the day or on certain occasions, for example, when you go to bed, when you wake up, before or after a meal, or before or after sex?
- Have you ever lied about your drug use to family members or friends?
- Have you ever lied to a doctor or faked symptoms to get prescription drugs?
- Have you ever stolen drugs?
- Have you ever stolen money or material goods that you could sell to obtain drugs?
- Have you ever done things to obtain drugs that you later regretted?
- Has your drug use ever caused problems for you with school or with work?
- Have you noticed that you need to use more and more of a drug to get you high?
- Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you go without drugs for a few days?
- Do you panic when your drug supply gets low?
- Have you ever done something when you were high that you felt guilty about later?
- Have you ever gotten into fights when high on drugs?
- Have you ever been arrested for any drug-related activity (including possession)?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with a medical problem related to your drug use?
- Have you ever overdosed on a drug?
- Have you ever attended a treatment program specifically related to drug use?
- Have you associated with people with whom you normally wouldn’t just so you could have access to drugs?
- Have you stopped associating with any of your friends because they don’t use drugs as much as you?
If you answered “Yes” to any two of these questions, this is a sign that you have a problem with drugs. If you answered “Yes” to any three, the chances are that you do have a problem with drugs. If you answered “Yes” to four or more, you definitely have a problem with drugs.
But this test is just a tool. You have become addicted to drugs when you start needing more of the drug to get the same effects, and you start to feel like you can’t get along without that drug. You may try to quit, but the withdrawal symptoms are just too much to take so you continue using.
Another good way to identify a drug addiction problem is to write things down. Again, you need to be brutally honest with yourself when you answer the following questions. Take your time and list everything you can think of. The purpose of this exercise is to realize what your addiction has done to your life.
- History: Go back to the start of your alcohol or drug addiction history. List each drug, and alcohol individually and trace the pattern of your life. What age did you start? When did you start increasing either the quantity or frequency of each drug? This will show you if you have increased tolerance and if you have become dependent on which drugs. (Something to be noted is that if you have been only addicted to marijuana, if you decide to quit the marijuana and start alcohol, there is a high probability that you will again become addicted with time. If you have a family history of alcoholism or drug addiction, you may be more susceptible to dependency. Part of this is genetic and also a learned model.)
- Health: Look at your physical health. List effects or any accidents, which may have been due to alcohol or drug use.
- Concerned Persons: Think of comments others have made and the effect you have made on them because of your alcohol or drug addiction. Did you miss birthdays? Did you break promises? List each person personally and what effects you remember.
- Irrational, or Dangerous Behavior: List times you took careless actions that put yourself or others in danger. List things you would not do if not using alcohol or drugs.
- Sex: Look at your sex life. Did your addiction to drugs or alcohol allow you to have sex without knowing someone? Did you take health risks such as lack of birth control or unprotected sex? Did the use of alcohol or drugs put you in danger of STDs and AIDS?
- Work: List examples of days missed, late, quitting or being fired from work. Did you get demoted, laid off or miss promotions or pay raises due to drug or alcohol use?
- Social Life and Friends: How have your social activities and friends changed while using alcohol or drugs. Did you lose or drift away from drinkers or drug users? Did you become a part of a drug culture? Did you miss your partner’s or children’s activities when they wanted you to participate?
- Money: Write down all legal costs, treatment expenses, loss of work pay, and how much you spent weekly on your alcohol or drug addiction. Add the years up to determine the loss. You may find you could own a house or have a large savings with the money spent on alcohol and drugs.
- Preoccupation: Did you start looking forward to or leaving work early to get alcohol or drugs? Did you use alcohol or drugs on the way to, or during work? Did you hide your drugs so nobody could use or throw them away?
- Control: Did you make promises to cut down on either drugs or alcohol and not be able to? Did you quit after a DUI and then begin again?
- Emotions and Feelings: What did alcohol and drug use do to your feelings? List the way they affected fear, anger, love, guilt, depression, loneliness and hurt. What is the difference between when you are using alcohol or drugs and sober?
- Spiritual and Character: How are you different from what you desired or planned your life to be at this age. Are you divorced, giving up on God and full of selfishness for only the addiction and you? What are your spiritual beliefs? Write them down, and if you are able, ask God to help remove your alcohol or drug addiction for things that build yourself and others up.
A good ending to the alcohol and drug recovery plan is to write a Dear John letter to the alcohol or drug addiction itself. List what they did for your life including the damage and why you need to say goodbye.