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When Does Substance Use Become Addiction?

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The word “addiction” brings many different ideas to mind, with many immediate images or preconceptions of what it means. Although, addiction takes a variety of forms, and there is no one, single way in which a person may suffer from the disease. 

Between various relationships with addictive substances, frequency of use, dosage, and much more, each individual will have a unique battle with addiction and recovery. This can make determining when substance use becomes an addiction difficult and nuanced. 

Luckily, there are ways each person can analyze their use of addictive substances to make the most informed decision about when to pursue professional detox and treatment to address their use of drugs or alcohol. Asking the right questions and dispelling misconceptions is the first step toward better understanding the journey towards recovery. 

The Misconceptions of Addiction 

Many of those struggling with their use of addictive substances are looking to gauge their relationship with drugs or alcohol based on a numerical value. This is thought to determine how much is “too much” or how often is “too often” to be engaging with addictive substances. Although this approach ignores many key factors, from a person’s age, attitudes surrounding drugs and alcohol, to even their intentions behind using these substances in the first place. 

For some, addiction can include regularly drinking, even if they are not getting completely inebriated. Others may go a long time between uses of alcohol or drugs but find themselves unable to stop once they begin using, resulting in blackouts or dangerous potential for overdose. Both of these relationships can be classified as an addiction depending on the person. Everything from binge drinking to high-functioning addiction are all reasons to seek professional treatment.

Others may believe that if their use is not explicitly classified as an “addiction” then it cannot be a problem, leading to dangerous attitudes surrounding their use and relationship with addictive substances. There is no use of illicit drugs or alcohol that is entirely healthy. A. person’s use can still develop into an addiction in the future if left unaddressed. Continuing to monitor the use and attitudes surrounding addictive substances is crucial for preventing the development of addiction at any age. 

Lastly, it is common to gauge an individual’s use based on the use of others, often comparing their drinking or drug use to their peers in order to determine if their relationship with substances is excessive. This approach leaves many gaps in perspective. It is important for individuals to determine their relationship with substances on their own metric, rather than by that of their peers.  

Asking the Right Questions

There is no perfectly safe way to engage with alcohol or illicit drugs. Asking the right questions can provide an essential perspective about a person’s use of addictive substances that is more personal than counting drinks or the frequency of drug use. Some of these more poignant questions individual can as themselves include:

  • Have you ever wanted to stop using, but could not?
  • Do you feel like you need addictive substances to destress?
  • Have you ever skipped meals to engage in drugs or alcohol?
  • Have you ever skipped work or avoided responsibilities or obligations to engage with drugs or alcohol, or as a result of a hangover?
  • Have you ever thought about decreasing or stopping your use?
  • Do you look for reasons to drink or use drugs, such as looking for something to celebrate?
  • Do you use drugs or alcohol to combat expected stresses, even before they happen?
  • Has anyone ever asked about your substance use?
  • Do you feel aggravated, anxious, or depressed when you cannot engage with addictive substances, or once the effects have worn off?
  • Have you ever felt guilty about your own use?

Determining a person’s relationship with drugs or alcohol only by using the number of drinks or frequency of use as a metric leaves many of these questions unaddressed. With the highly personal nature of the disease, it is important to focus on each individual’s unique relationship. Answering “yes” to any of these questions indicates that individuals should further explore their relationship with addictive substances with a professional. 

Finding Personalized Treatment

Just as addiction can take many forms, no two individuals’ journeys through detox and recovery will be the same. Each person’s time, strategies, and goals will be unique to their specific situation. Recovery is never a single, linear path that all people follow in the same way. Rather, it is a time for individuals to explore the personal impact of addictive substances in their lives in a way that cannot be accurately reflected with a simple number. 

When a person’s use of drugs or alcohol becomes an addiction will be unique to the individual. When a person is seeking a place to detox, is in need of treatment, and wants to pursue a healthier life, professional treatment can provide the necessary skills needed to make the profound changes required for a sober lifestyle.

Addiction is a life-changing disease that affects every aspect of daily life. Determining when your use of drugs or alcohol becomes an addiction is a nuanced and difficult question to answer that depends on a number of factors. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we understand the unique approach necessary to make the most of one’s time in recovery, and the various ways in which addiction can manifest and affect your life. We are committed to creating a personalized treatment plan with therapeutic programs that address your needs in detox and recovery. We believe in the transformative potential of professional recovery, helping you not just embrace new grounding strategies to combat urges and cravings, but also addressing the myriad of other effects addiction has had on your life. We will help you rebuild relationships and balance stresses as you work toward sobriety. For more information, call us at (714) 492-1119.

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