One of the reasons that substance abuse is so widespread is because most people don’t recognize that they have a problem. While it may be easier to recognize addiction in others, it’s far more difficult to see and accept, when it comes to our own behaviors. By learning the characteristics that define a substance abuse problem, you’ll be better able to recognize your need for help.
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1. Loss of Control
One of the earliest signs that your substance abuse may be getting out of control is drinking more alcohol or taking more drugs than you intend. When you set a limit for yourself and continue to use a substance beyond that limit, this loss of control indicates a larger problem is developing.
2. Other Hobbies and Responsibilities Suffer
It starts out simply. You may go out to party instead of hitting the gym or hanging out with sober friends. Over time, you’ll spend less time doing things that don’t involve alcohol or drug use. You may even begin to have problems in school or at work, as your substance use takes importance over these activities.
3. Relationships Begin to Fail
As you spend more time engaging in substance use, you’ll devote less of your time to friends who don’t drink or use drugs. This causes those relationships to suffer, as you drift apart from them and lose contact with friends and family members.
4. You Begin Keeping Secrets
At this point, you may feel as though your substance use is becoming a problem, or you may fear that others see it as a problem. In either case, you begin to hide how much time you spend on substance use and, eventually, you will try to hide your use altogether.
5. You Build Up a Tolerance
As you continue using alcohol or your drug of choice, your brain will become accustomed to that high feeling and build up a tolerance to the effects of the substance. This means the same quantity that used to give you that euphoric feeling will now be needed just to help you feel normal and functional. To achieve your high or intoxicated feeling, you will have to take more of the substance.
6. Staying Clean or Sober Causes Withdrawal
Another sign of a substance use disorder is that trying to stay clean or sober, even for a short time, causes you to experience withdrawal symptoms. You may feel fatigued or anxious, which can affect your ability to function.
Other common symptoms of withdrawal include:
- Shaking or trembling
- Nausea, which may be accompanied by vomiting
- Jumpiness or irritability
- Loss of appetite
7. You Continue to Use Without the Pleasure
Your substance use will reach a point at which you no longer really enjoy it as much as you did, when you started using. Now, you use just to feel “normal” on a daily basis. Even after relationships have suffered, you’ve experienced problems at school or work, and possibly have gotten into legal trouble, you still continue to use. This indicates that your substance use is out of your control.
8. You No Longer Look Yourself
A substance use disorder will also affect your ability or interest in taking care of yourself. As the addiction takes over and becomes the most important thing in your life, you’ll pay less attention to your hygiene and will lose interest in how you appear to others. You may stop bathing and washing your hair, you may wear dirty clothes, and you may even stop keeping your living quarters clean. Many people with substance use disorders also experience extreme weight loss.
If any of these conditions seem familiar as a part of your own life, it may be time to accept that you need help. A substance use disorder isn’t easy to overcome, but, by asking for help from professionals, you can get yourself clean and sober. That’s the most important step to regaining a better state of physical and emotional health. By the time you complete an addiction recovery program, you’ll feel better about yourself and your future will have a brighter outlook.