You’ve always thought of drug addiction as something that affects other people. Your drug use is a conscious and fairly careful choice, something you’re pretty sure you can stop doing if you decide you want to. And maybe you can stop on your own, if you decide you want to.
You don’t really know, though, because your attempts have mostly been half-hearted, or maybe you haven’t really seen a pressing need to try. After all, your drug use isn’t interfering with your job or your relationships for the most part, and you take it pretty easy on the substances, compared to real drug addicts.
Maybe it started with a few lines of cocaine or a tablet or two of Adderall here and there to help you maintain focus while you worked or studied. Or maybe it started with a little weed now and then to help you relax after a long day or to ease your general anxiety. “Here and there” and “now and then” eventually turned into most days of the week, and now you use drugs every day – sometimes more than once – to give you a little extra boost at work, or to keep the anxiety at bay, or to make the tedium of life seem a little more interesting.
But you’re a motivated, hard worker and a decent human being. You still manage to get things done, and to high expectations. Do you really have a drug problem? And if so, is it something you can tackle on your own, when you’re ready?
The Nature of Addiction
When it comes to drug or alcohol addiction, there’s very little gray area. Addiction is a disease that changes the physical structures of the brain and alters the way it functions. The disease of addiction is both chronic, meaning that it can be controlled but not cured, and relapsing, meaning that once the physical addiction has been broken through detox, using the substance again can cause a recurrence of the addiction, characterized again by changes in brain structure and function. (1)
Symptoms That Show You’re Addicted
Although not everyone will experience all of the symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction, and some drugs are certainly “harder” and more addictive than others, any of these four common symptoms are an indication that you may have a drug addiction.
(1) Withdrawal symptoms that set in after discontinuing drug use. These may be as mild as irritability or increased anxiety when quitting marijuana, or they may feel like a bad case of the flu when kicking painkillers or heroin. Depression is a common symptom of withdrawal from stimulants like meth, Adderall, and cocaine, and flulike symptoms accompanied by tremors is a common symptom of alcohol withdrawal.
(2) Building up a tolerance. Over time, your brain adjusts to a substance by altering its chemical function, and as a result, the same two hits of weed, three cocktails, or 30 milligrams of Adderall that once did the trick do exactly nothing now. Building up a tolerance is an indication that your brain function is changing to compensate for the presence of the drug.
(3) Thinking about getting more of your drug of choice. Your supply will be depleted by the end of the week. Do you just shrug it off and move on to other things, or do you begin contacting your people and start getting a little nervous when everyone’s out of supplies? If you’re spending a lot of time and energy thinking about securing more drugs or actively pursuing your next batch, you may have an addiction.
(4) Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy. You’re kind of over and done with heading out to the park for a pickup game of basketball, and it’s been eons since you went for a run, which you used to do religiously.
Even going out with friends has become less stimulating. You chalk it up to being tired or overworked, or you just figure you’re growing out of those activities. Addiction has a way of making things seem less pleasurable or interesting than you once found them.
Taking the First Step
Whether you have a full-blown heroin or alcohol problem, a little cocaine habit, or you smoke a bit of weed throughout the day to stay even-keeled, drug addiction will take a toll on your physical and mental health sooner or later.
Seeking professional help for a substance addiction is the first step to recovery, and it’s often the hardest. You may fear that life will be cumbersome and dull without drugs or alcohol, or you may have doubts about whether treatment can really work for you.
You may be worried about the stigma of addiction and wonder how you’ll tell your family, friends, and co-workers that you’re entering treatment, and those feelings are perfectly natural. But you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it, and in our experience, worrying about it is far worse than the reality that transpires. Right now, you’re thinking you might be ready to reclaim your life, and right now is the time to act on it.
Are you ready to embrace life without drugs? Please call Destination Hope today to discuss your goals, needs, and concerns with one of our professional addiction counselors.
- Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction, Updated July, 2014, http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/drugs-brain