Many substance users have a difficult time realizing that they have crossed the line between normal substance use to addiction. Usage is easily reasoned away because of special occasions, or stressful days, so some struggle to realize that they’ve grown addicted to their drug of choice.
Maybe you’ve had a long day at work, and you treat yourself to a glass of wine to relax upon getting home. Seems normal, but what about when these occasions start turning into an everyday occurrence? Or perhaps you were prescribed a pain reliever after suffering from a legitimate injury. The pain is gone, but you still have a few extra pills to spare and decide to take them anyways despite the lack of necessity because they make you “feel good”.
Substance abuse can be tricky and confusing to identify, especially in its early stages. So how do you know if you’re addicted or not? Here are five warning signs that you might be struggling with addiction.
1. You Become Irritable Without Use
Everyone is irritable sometimes, and irritability doesn’t necessarily mean you have a problem. General stress, long days at work, and relationship issues are easy stressors that can affect a person’s entire mood.
If you find yourself constantly irritated during times you don’t use, however, you might want to think about your habits. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a part of the brain called the extended amygdala becomes activated when the pleasurable feelings induced by drugs or alcohol fade, causing feelings of anxiety and irritability. The more you use, the more you’ll experience these symptoms and the more severe they will be.
If you’re noticing heightened irritability more frequently when you’re sober, you might have an addiction problem. The fact that you are on edge without the substance of use speaks volumes, and is an early sign that points to a problem. Catching an addiction in this stage is easier to recover from, as a physical dependence to the drug hasn’t been developed quite yet.
2. You Use Daily or Binge Use
Daily usage is widely known to be associated with addictive patterns, but binge usage can also be a sign that something is wrong. The more you use a drug, the more of the drug it takes to get the same high you experienced before as the brain becomes desensitized. Binging alcohol or drugs can quickly lead to dependency issues, and the more often you binge the bigger this risk can be.
Developing a tolerance to any substance is a huge red flag. A tolerance means that your body has become desensitized to whatever you’re feeding it, and it will require larger doses to induce the same effect. The more drugs you give your body, the more damage you do to it. This vicious cycle causes a lot mental and physical harm, especially when the use extends over a long period of time.
3. You Constantly Experience Cravings
If you notice yourself craving a drug, thinking about it frequently, or constantly wanting to use, that’s a strong sign that you probably have an addiction. The fact that you cannot lead a normal life without having your mind consumed by thoughts of the substance use likely means that you have developed a dependence.
The portion of the brain involved in the reward circuit, the basal ganglia, is hijacked by addictive substances that artificially produce pleasure, making it hard for the body to reward itself naturally from normal activities such as watching a funny movie or eating good food.
When this system is abused enough, activities that you once found pleasurable become less enticing. You don’t seem to find happiness or humor in anything, unless it involves the drug or being high. This lack of entertainment from normal outlets makes drug use even more of a focal point, eliciting strong cravings that can be difficult to ignore.
4. You Notice Your Habits Escalating in Amount and Frequency
When you begin to need more of a substance to get the same effects you used to get, you should know that your brain is becoming desensitized, or developing a tolerance, to the substance. The dopamine release will produce less of an effect, and you won’t experience the same high you used to experience.
Being sober will also become more and more uncomfortable, to the point that you may need to use to feel normal. Symptoms may include headaches, shakiness and “fuzzy” feelings in your head. If you notice your habit escalating, it’s a good idea to consider getting help.
5. You or Your Loved Ones Notice Personality Changes
Personality changes may be difficult for us to notice ourselves, but they are a big indicator of drug dependency. If you find yourself more withdrawn or forgetful, or experience mood swings or exhaustion, you might be struggling with drug addiction. Although it can be difficult or embarrassing, asking those close to you if they’ve noticed you behaving differently can be a great way to gauge whether you should reach out for expert help.
Another sign that you might be addicted is withdrawing socially. If you find yourself cancelling plans to engage in drug use, or choose to use instead of getting work done or being productive in other ways, it is likely you might be struggling with addiction. Completely changing your circle of friends is also a sign of unusual behavior that could be due to different interests, i.e. drug use.
Facing drug addiction can be a huge mountain to climb. Even admitting to yourself that you have a problem can be difficult, as feelings of embarrassment and shame can easily arise. But once you realize you’re struggling, you can reach out and get the help you need. To talk to someone about receiving treatment or getting more information, you can call us at Arizona Addiction Recovery Center. Don’t hesitate to reach out: the sooner you get help, the sooner you can start living a sober, clean life.
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