Am I A Drug Addict?
It can be difficult to realize you might have a problem, especially if you’re addicted to an illicit substance. There is a lot of judgment and shame thrown at current and recovering addicts that can cause someone to push against the idea that they have one in the first place. But sometimes, we have to bite the bullet and seek help when we really need it. This post will help you determine whether or not you are a drug addict, and what to do if you discover you are.
Table of Contents
- 1. What addiction means
- 2. How addiction works
- 3. Am I stupid?
- 4. Sensitivity to drugs
- 5. Addiction & dependence
- 6. How addicts’ function
- 7. Addiction signs: me
- 8. Addiction signs: them
- 9. General addiction signs
- 10. The DAST-10 test
- 11. Positive test results
- 12. I think I’m an addict
- 13. Can I be cured?
- 14. References
So What Does it Mean to be a Drug Addict?
Drug addiction is a strong compulsion to take and seek out drugs. While the initial decision to experiment with drugs is just that, a decision, prolonged drug use can chemically alter the brain and make it incredibly difficult to resist further drug use. This is what makes relapse so common and rehab all the more important. 
Why Are Some People More Likely to Become Drug Addicts?
Addiction can happen to anyone; however, some people are more likely to use and become addicted to drugs than others. Scientists believe some of the factors that make some people prone to addiction are people with addicts in their family, are particularly sensitive to stimulants, have a higher IQ, or struggle with mental illness. 
Am I Irresponsible or Stupid If I Am A Drug Addict?
Many addicts are smart, successful people. Despite this, people frequently imagine a drug addict as low income and uneducated. Many of the stresses highly successful individuals deal with can cause them to turn to alcohol or another type of addictive drug to take the edge off and allow them to relax.
If you believe you are addicted to an illicit substance, there is no reason to beat yourself up about it or feel inadequate. Plenty of other smart, successful people have suffered from addiction and you should focus on getting help whether that be attending rehab or opening up to your family.
Sensitivity to the Effects of Drugs
Studies have suggested that people who are sensitive to the effects of drugs are more likely to develop an addiction. Another theory for why addictions form is a condition called ‘negative emotionality’. When someone has negative emotionality, they have a propensity to experience negative emotions. This makes them more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of escapism.
The Difference Between Addiction and Dependence
Addiction is a disease. There is a behavioural component to it that makes it much harder to resist taking further doses of the drug. They will spend a lot of time trying to obtain drugs and it may get to the point where their entire life revolves around their drug use. They might withdraw from friends and family and attend fewer social gatherings than they used to.
Dependence, however, is a purely chemical condition in the brain. When drugs that affect the neurotransmitters in the brain are taken for long periods of time, chemicals like serotonin and dopamine flood into the brain. The brain, in turn, tries to keep everything balanced. It may decide to stop secreting dopamine or reabsorb it. 
This can cause powerful withdrawal symptoms that can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. While drug addicts often have a dependence on the substance their abusing, people with a dependence on a substance are not always addicts.
How Drug Addicts Function
Many addicts would be referred to as “high-functioning”. High-functioning addicts might not always appear to be an addict. They work hard to appear successful (and oftentimes are successful). They have active and healthy social lives and will probably hold one job for a very long time. Because they’re so good at appearing to be normal, it’s hard for friends and family members to spot the signs until it is too late.
But there are signs that someone is an addict, even if they’re not always obvious.
A high functioning addict may make excuses for their behaviour. Maybe having a drinking bender is a reward for their job performance. It might just be the “industry standard”. Regardless, they have a problem and these excuses should not be taken at face value.
They might also have several friends who are also addicts or it may seem like they can’t stop drinking while out with friends. You should also take notice if your friend or a family member are lethargic or constantly have a headache.
How Can I Tell if I’m a Drug Addict?
Addiction isn’t always obvious. You might have taken medication, but find that you’re still taking it even after you no longer feel ill, and as you take more and more of a drug, you’ll begin to develop a tolerance to the drug. This means you have to take more of the drug to achieve the same high you used to get.
If you’re addicted to a substance, you’ll go through withdrawal symptoms such as becoming shaky, depressed, ill, having trouble eating or sleeping, or you might even develop a fever, or start having seizures.
Behaviourally, you might be an addict if you can’t stop taking a drug, even if you know and want to stop. You might also begin to withdraw from family, friends, and co-workers or begin to treat them poorly. You will most likely begin to obsessively think about acquiring and taking your drug of choice. this obsession will begin to make it harder to do the activities you used to enjoy. 
If you find that you have several of these symptoms, it’s very likely that you are developing an addiction and should seek treatment.
How Can I Tell if Someone Else is a Drug Addict?
People who are addicted to drugs aren’t going to be open about it, especially around friends and family. Here are some of the signs that someone might be suffering from addiction:
Your friend or family member might have bloodshot eyes or a bloody nose. They might also appear dirty or look like they haven’t taken a shower. They may suddenly seem more agitated or irritable and might have even changed their daily routines. Finally, you may find that your friend is asking you for money more frequently.
While one or two of these symptoms doesn’t mean someone is definitely an addict, you should monitor your friend or family member closely to see if you notice any of the other signs of an addiction.
Some General Drug Addiction Signs
Below we have listed some of the most common signs and symptoms of being a drug addict:
- Are defensive
- Experience mood swings
- Are more paranoid
- Feel hopeless
- Have lowered self-esteem and self-worth
- Have difficulties concentrating
- Have issues with poor judgment
- Seem dirtier than usual and have a general disregard for their appearance
- Have issues sleeping
- Act more secretive and dishonest than usual
- Withdraw from social events
- Struggle in work or school
- Have tried to stop or reduce taking illicit substances, but can’t seem to control their use
What is the DAST-10 Test?
The DAST-10 test is a 10 question “yes” or “no” questionnaire used to determine whether adults have a substance abuse problem. The questions focus on how frequently someone uses their drug of choice and how it has affected their lives.
The 10 questions to test if you are a drug addict are as follows:
- Have you used drugs other than those required for medical reasons?
- Do you abuse more than one drug at a time?
- Are you always able to stop using drugs when you want to?
- Have you ever had blackouts or flashbacks as a result of drug use?
- Do you ever feel bad or guilty about your drug use?
- Does your spouse (or parents) ever complain about your involvement with drugs?
- Have you neglected your family because of your use of drugs?
- Have you engaged in illegal activities in order to obtain drugs?
- Have you ever experienced withdrawal symptoms (felt sick) when you stopped taking drugs?
- Have you had medical problems as a result of your drug use (e.g. memory loss, hepatitis, convulsions, bleeding)? 
While this test isn’t a medical diagnosis of addiction or drug abuse, it can be used as a pretty helpful tool to realize you may have an addiction and seek help.
What to do if the Test Shows I’m A Drug Addict
If someone scores higher than a 3, there is a moderate to severe concern that the test-taker is abusing drugs. If your doctor administered this test, they will most likely provide you with treatment options to help you recover.
If you took the test yourself, there are several rehab programs at your fingertips to help recover from your addiction. It can be incredibly jarring and painful to realize that you might have an addiction, but use that shock to seek help and better yourself in an important way.
What Should I do If I Think I’m a Drug Addict?
Well, you’ve already completed the first step! Acknowledging that you might have a problem is the first (and arguably the most important) step. Now you can begin to speak to your doctor or other medical professionals for treatment options.
But the one thing you should never do is go cold turkey. While some people manage to quit their addiction cold turkey, this is incredibly difficult and doesn’t have a high success rate. And depending on how severe your addiction is, the withdrawal symptoms can even be physically harmful.
Talk to a friend or other person you trust if you don’t feel completely comfortable talking to a doctor. Recovery is possible and if you wish to go down this road, make sure you surround yourself with loving and supportive family and friends. 
Can I Be Cured If I’m A Drug Addict?
The short answer: no. Addiction is a disease that can really only be treated rather than completely cured. Recovering addicts will have to resist the urge to relapse for much of their life, but by seeking treatment and having a strong support system, you can manage these urges.
However, you can prevent becoming addicted in the first place. Parental and school education and prevention programs can help children learn the risks and effects of drug use.
About the author:
Jon writes for ADT Healthcare and a number of other websites. Jon graduated with a degree in psychology in 1992. Jon has been in recovery for 19 years.