How do I know if I am addicted to drugs or alcohol?
The short answer is you are likely addicted if you can’t stop. Over time, the body changes to regular and repeated exposure to substances. This is how tolerance and dependence happen. Signs of tolerance and dependence include having to take more of a substance over time to feel the same effect and experiencing withdrawals. Using substances is an unhealthy way of easing the emotional pain of depression, anxiety, bad relationships, etc. As addiction deepens, you may neglect other responsibilities: often family, friends, work, and school. Over time, taking a risk for the substance heightens, which often leads to unfortunate circumstances such as driving under the influence; being intoxicated at work; stealing to get money for drugs; associating with dangerous people to get drugs, and even selling sex for drugs.
How do I know if someone else is?
It can be hard to know if someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol. People are often aware of the problem, so they try to conceal it. They may hide substances and use in secret. They may drink in private. There are physical changes of withdrawal and intoxication unique to each drug one can look out for. It may be more evident in changes in mood and behavior. Many people with substance use problems also suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental health diseases.
When does someone know they are ready for addiction treatment?
You are ready for help when you say you are ready for help. If you can’t reduce or quit on your own, it is time to reach out and get help.
What are some challenges of recovery?
Unrealistic expectations may be the most significant setback to recovery. No matter the type of therapeutic and medical support, recovery can be a long and challenging process. The body changes with regular consumption of drugs and alcohol over months or years. Most of that healing needs to happen in the brain: neurons take months to years to get back to healthy functioning. Additionally, behavioral habits must change, along with learning new coping skills, patterns of thinking, and developing healthy support networks.
Recovery is a life-long process, but it is not impossible.
What if I relapse?
Addiction is a chronic disease with relapse rates similar to other chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure. Typical relapse rates range from 40 to 60%. The more skills learned and support available, the quicker to getting back on track. With a relapse behind you, it is an opportunity for growth and understanding.
What is withdrawal, how long does it last, will it ever go away entirely?
The effects of withdrawal come from the body reacting to a substance it has become dependent on. The body does all it can to create a balance with whatever we do to it. Drugs and alcohol over time create an adaptation where the body becomes more tolerant of it.
Withdrawal has physical and mental manifestations. Generally, the physical withdrawals are over within 1-2 weeks. Mental issues can take longer. People may be more irritable, anxious, depressed, keyed up. They may have insomnia. Many meds can help alleviate some of these symptoms, but it is the brain healing from substance use that takes the most time.
How can I talk about addiction to my friends and family?
Letting others know that you are struggling with substances allows you to begin the process of recovery. Say, “I need help,” “I love myself enough to tell you this,” “I trust you, and this is why I am telling you that I have a problem.” If you feel that you do not have someone who will be loving and supportive, then beginning the process by calling a therapist, helpline, or clinic may be the best way to start the process.
Can I cut back or do I need to stop using entirely?
Some substances have more intense effects and carry a higher risk of addiction than others. The majority of people using substances–alcohol being the greatest of these–are not addicted. Their use has been sporadic and recreational. For more dangerous and illegal substances, it would be wise to quit as soon as possible and stay away. If there has been misuse, one may have to take a hard look at the risk of dependence.
Can I quit using drugs but still drink alcohol?
You need to take a hard look at why you have been drinking. It is also important to look back to see if there has been a history of overusing or misusing alcohol. It can be a slippery slope to get back into any substance use. The safest thing would be to give it all a break and let the body heal. Then with the support of family, friends, and counselors, you can decide what place alcohol has, if any, in your life.
Do I need to go away to rehab? (when is inpatient required)
Most people do not need to go to residential rehab. Studies have shown similar success rates between residential services and Intensive Outpatient Programs. As providers, we look at support in varying levels of intensity that needs to meet up with how severe the addiction has been or what levels of care have not worked so far. For someone new to treatment with a good support system, individual therapy and community programs may be enough. For someone with more medical concerns or limited social support, residential services may be warranted. It helps to reach out to an addictions specialist to help one figure out what may be the best course of care.
How does “Therapy” help with my addiction?
Addiction is a complex mix of physical changes, social factors, and psychology. Mental health and addiction counselors can be very helpful in working through the psychological and social issues that may have gotten us into the addiction. Without knowing how you got into something, it can be challenging finding the way out. Therapy can look at current coping skills, stress triggers, and healthy thinking. It may also involve going back to process things from the past. The more proactive you are in the therapy.