How do I know I’m addicted?

Updated: Apr 23

Addiction, or now more commonly referred to as Substance Use Disorder, is classified by the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Statistical Manual, fifth edition) as a complex disease which affects the functioning of the brain and body through chronic use of substances resulting in an inability to stop the habitual use physically or psychologically.

Let's look at the criteria:

  1. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control use of the substance.

  2. Recurrent use of the substance resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.

  3. Continued use of the substance despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of its use.

  4. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of the use of the substance.

  5. Recurrent use of the substance in situations in which it is physically hazardous.

  6. Use of the substance is continued despite the knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance.

  7. The substance is taken to relieve or avoid the withdrawal symptoms.

  8. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than what was intended.

  9. A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect.

  10. Cravings or urges to use the substance.

  11. Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from the substance.

Severity levels

To be diagnosed with a substance use disorder, you need to meet 2 or more of these criteria within a 12 month period. If you answered yes to 2 or 3 of the above, it is considered mild. 4 – 5 yes answers is considered moderate. Answering 6 or more as yes, it is considered severe.


E. Morton Jellinek created The Jellinek Curve in the 1950s and was later revised by Max Glatt, a British psychiatrist. It typically describes the phases of alcoholism and recovery. The purpose of this illustration is to point out the progression of the illness if help is not sought out.

Stages of alcoholism:

1. Pre-Alcoholic

Occasional relief drinking. It makes you feel better about yourself, helps with worrying or make you forget about something that is troubling you.

2. Early Alcoholic

Onset of memory blackouts and excessive drinking. You start obsessing over the next drink, and possibly lying about the amount you’ve been drinking or denying that you have been drinking.

3. Middle Alcoholic

This is a more obvious stage that you have a problem with alcohol. Your mood is affected and you might have more noticeable physical signs of alcohol abuse.

4. Late Alcoholic

Drinking has now consumed your life and is affecting your health and relationships. Trying to stop may result in physical withdrawal symptoms.

5. Recovery

This is when most people seek help. Once stabilized through detoxification, treatment starts and the maintenance phase of your recovery takes place.

Even if this is an illustration of alcoholism, it depicts the stages for most substances that are commonly abused. Understanding that early intervention is crucial to illuminate the chances of a severe addiction.

Common misconceptions about addiction:

1. It is a bad habit and you can choose to stop

Addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. No one decides to become addicted. Many people who has used drugs recreationally or drink can do so without becoming dependant on it. Read more here on what addiction is.

2. An addict is a junky and live on the streets

Many people are high functioning members of society despite having a substance use disorder.

3. Alcohol is not as bad as illicit drugs

Because alcohol is socially acceptable, the consequences of alcoholism is just as real as any other substance user.

4. My doctor prescribed my drugs so it can’t be harmful

There are numerous types of medication that has the potential of becoming physically and psychologically addictive. Read more here on prescription medication addiction.

5. Addiction is about drugs and alcohol

Process addiction or behavioural addiction is more common than one would think. Read more on process addiction here.

There is no better time to get help than now, no matter the severity of a person’s addiction.

Look at the subsequent post on why you need help with your addiction.

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#addiction #understandingaddiction #substanceabuse #addictiontreatment #addictivebehaviour

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