Am I An Addict?
Are substance use, abuse, and addiction all words that describe the same thing? It might appear so because the line between substance use and substance abuse isn’t easy to recognize. And the line separating dependence and addiction is even thinner.
If you’ve ever wondered:
Am I an addict?
…it’s possible. This is an important question to consider and your first step on the path toward recovery.
If you are concerned about your substance use or if someone you love is struggling with drug use, drug abuse, or alcohol abuse, help is available. Zinnia Health has treatment centers near major cities across the United States. Call us at (855) 430-9439 to speak to an addiction treatment specialist about our individually tailored addiction treatment programs.
But What Does Addiction Mean?
According to ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine), addiction is a chronic disease. It is defined in this way to acknowledge and understand what people who struggle with addiction experience. It isn’t temporary. It can be a lifelong disease requiring medical and therapeutic treatment.
From the dense populations of inner cities to remote rural towns, substance abuse, and overdoses have left nowhere in the country unscathed. From 2014 to 2020, overdose deaths increased across the top illicit substances, with the only partial decline being among prescription drug overdose deaths. Close to 92,000 people died of overdose in 2020 — fentanyl overdose deaths accounted for nearly 60,000.
The complexities of addiction are far-reaching:
- Brain circuitry
- Genetic heredity
- Environmental factors
- Living circumstances
How each of these factors play a role defines the difference between addiction, dependence on a substance, and the abuse of a substance.
Differences Between Addiction and Dependence
Substance use, dependence, substance abuse, and addiction are often taken to mean the same thing, but all of these terms are distinct. In fact, discovering the treatment options available to you and which treatment programs are best for you depend on distinguishing these differences.
Substance abuse is an action, whereas addiction is a condition. Many people might engage in substance abuse at some point in their lives, yet they don’t become dependent on or addicted to it. For other individuals, substance use can lead to a mental health condition known as substance use disorder. The worst form of substance use disorder is addiction.
Abusing a substance refers to using it more than its recommended usage. For instance, you’ve probably read or heard at some point that drinking certain wines daily is good for heart health and other conditions. Moderate drinking, or drinking in moderation, is usually considered one daily drink for women compared to two daily drinks for men.
Three or more drinks daily for women and four or more for men is considered heavy drinking. According to SAMHSA, binge drinking takes just one more drink: four or more for women and five or more for men. When discussing illicit drugs or prescription misuse, some uses of drugs and alcohol are deemed substance abuse even if the individual doesn’t make it a habit and dependence doesn’t develop.
Alcohol and Drug Dependence
Dependence on drugs or alcohol is serious. It’s a step above substance abuse. However, it is not addiction. Dependence on substances is a specific physical or chemical experience. It’s generally referred to as an addiction symptom, but it is not addiction in itself.
As it enters the body, a substance that can cause dependence changes brain chemistry and structure by directly influencing the brain’s neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are like instructions the brain gives either to another part of the brain or to a part of the body.
These instructions tell the brain or part of the body what it needs to do, how to move or provide a specific reaction. Nearly all substances affect the brain’s dopamine or serotonin levels, or a combination of both, which elicit pleasure and reward.
When the brain’s pleasure center is affected this way, a person’s brain or body seeks out a way to replicate the feeling. When a substance is used for this effect, it creates an imbalance in the brain because it’s not a natural release of these neurotransmitters.
As a result, the brain attempts to rebalance or find equilibrium, which results in one of three scenarios—the brain will either:
- Stop transmitting a neurotransmitter
- Stop absorbing a neurotransmitter
- Stop creating a neurotransmitter
None of these scenarios are good, but when the brain altogether stops creating neurotransmitters in the presence of a substance, this is considered tolerance. Tolerance refers to the condition experienced when the body is used to or tolerates a substance.
When the brain or body reaches tolerance, it requires more of that substance to reach the same level or desired feeling as before tolerance.
Once tolerance is reached, there are only two ways to return your brain to creating and firing these neurotransmitters:
- Use the substance more frequently at higher doses to achieve the desired feeling.
- Slowly wean yourself from the substance and let your body and brain return to equilibrium naturally.
When dependence is reached, withdrawal symptoms can occur once the substance begins leaving the body and its effects begin to dissipate.
What Are the Most Common Withdrawal Symptoms?
Withdrawal symptoms can vary significantly from person to person depending on multiple variables, including what substance is used and the level of dependence the person is experiencing.
Keeping this in mind, however, the most common symptoms of withdrawal can include:
- Having no appetite
- Feeling nauseous
- Inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep
- Feeling drowsy
- Headaches or migraines
- Chills or fever
- Bodily shakes
- Tired muscles
- Overall discomfort
This is not an exhaustive list, and not every person will feel all of these withdrawal symptoms. But if you’ve become dependent on a substance, withdrawal symptoms typically begin within four hours after that substance starts leaving the body.
Typical withdrawal symptoms generally hit their peak at around 10 hours, and some individuals will start feeling better within one to three days.
How is Addiction Different?
At this point, you might wonder how dependence differs from addiction. Dependence is the body’s reaction to the continued use of a substance, whether it’s a physical reaction or a chemical reaction. Addiction is much more than just these reactions.
Addiction takes into account the emotional response elicited when an individual considers quitting the substance. Addicted individuals often have much better chances of getting sober — and remaining sober — if they seek an addiction treatment center with tailored treatment programs, such as rehab, and following up with aftercare programs and services, and sticking with support groups or other therapy, such as family therapy sessions or group therapy programs.
Not everyone who becomes dependent on a substance will struggle to quit using it, even if they go through the steps by themselves. However, addiction is a disease that sometimes requires a lifelong dedication to treatment programs to maintain sobriety and prevent relapse.
So, let’s return to the original question: “Am I an addict?”
Most Common Signs You May Be Suffering from an Addiction
Some individuals, especially in the age of the internet, prefer self-diagnosing their drug problems. From Google to Reddit, you can ask anything and typically find your answer within 10 minutes or less, right? While it’s always advised to get the opinion of a trusted healthcare provider, it’s okay to begin by asking yourself certain questions.
You’re likely living with addiction if two or more of these scenarios in this addict quiz sound like your situation:
- You can’t quit using a substance, even if you’ve tried or want to quit.
- You’ve increased your dose or use.
- You began using it as a way to interact socially, but it feels more like a “need to” now rather than a “want to.”
- Intense cravings make it hard not to think about the substance once its effects disappear.
- You’ve started going out of your way to find the substance when you are low or out of it.
- You’d rather use the substance than partake in activities or hobbies you once loved.
- You’ve begun using the substance when it’s not considered appropriate to do so, such as when you have other responsibilities to attend to, such as children in the home, driving to work, driving to school, or even while you’re at work or school — you may even neglect going to these places.
- You continue using a substance even though you’re aware of the physical and mental health concerns of continued use.
- You continue using the substance even though you know it’s negatively impacting your family members, friendships, or career opportunities.
- You continuously fail to meet essential obligations because of your substance use, and people who know you well would say you’re not as reliable or trustworthy as you once were.
- You’ve developed or are developing an increased tolerance. (This isn’t necessarily easily noticeable for the person actively engaged in substance abuse, so think about your use: Do the effects seem weaker lately? Do you find you’re taking more of the substance or using it more often than you used to?)
- You experience withdrawals once the substance begins leaving your body.
If you’ve experienced two or more of these situations within the past 12 months, it may be time to seek an addiction treatment facility and begin the recovery process.
Do you or a loved one suffer from substance abuse? If you’re worried it may be more than dependence or tolerance, Zinnia Health can help. Call us at (855) 430-9439 to learn more about our wide range of tailored addiction treatment programs near you.
I’m An Addict: What Are My Recovery Options?
If you’ve recognized the signs of addiction in yourself or a loved one, you might be pondering recovery options. Some individuals, whether due to financial constraints or the stigma of addiction, may not want to publicly admit their addiction for fear of ridicule or affordability.
But, you normally don’t need to worry about affordability, as your current health insurance most likely covers addiction treatment programs. If your healthcare plan doesn’t include addiction treatment, or if you don’t have health insurance, many treatment facilities will work out payment arrangements with you because sobriety is most important.
With regards to the perceived stigma of drug abuse, know this: you will never be judged at an addiction treatment center. In fact, treatment facilities would rather have you at least contact your primary care provider rather than attempt to quit by yourself.
In active addiction, quitting cold turkey is not usually something an addict is prepared to do, and it is also not a safe option and can lead to further health problems. Instead, recovery programs for substance abuse, alcohol abuse, and addiction are much safer options and can lead to true, lasting sobriety.
For instance, many addiction treatment programs include MAT or medication-assisted treatment. MAT helps an individual suffering from an active addiction to get through the hardest step on the path to recovery: detoxification.
MAT uses an FDA-approved method that incorporates medicine to ease withdrawal symptoms, counseling programs, and other therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to treat the whole person and not just the substance abuse aspect.
Some people require an inpatient recovery program, whereas others can benefit from outpatient addiction treatment. Inpatient programs often include aftercare programs incorporating outpatient services and ongoing family or group therapy options. Preparing and following through with your aftercare program ensures a much better rate of success in the sobriety journey.
Recommended Reading: Inpatient vs. Outpatient Rehab: Which Is Better?
A co-occurring disorder program is effective if you are diagnosed with co-occurring disorders (dual diagnosis), such as a mental health condition plus drug addiction. In this type of program, you begin with a safe, inpatient detox program followed by uniquely tailored therapy to address how your mental health condition and addiction feed into each other.
Caring for both conditions at the same time provides a stronger awareness of your unique needs for a healthy, happy, substance-free life.
Zinnia Health and You — Your Path to Recovery and a Healthy Life
Substance abuse is more prevalent than ever. If you think you or someone you love could be dealing with the battle of addiction, Zinnia Health can help. The path to recovery is just a phone call away at (855) 430-9439.