Am I Addicted? - Drug Addiction

There is a difference between social use and addiction but the most important issue here is that of recognising you have an addiction. This is a very difficult thing to do and many addicts engage in a form of self-denial rather than admit to having a problem.

Having an addiction means that you are controlled by your need for a particular substance to satisfy cravings and prevent withdrawal symptoms. When things have got to the point that you are unable to get through the day without a drink, a cigarette or a ‘fix’ then you have a problem.

Addiction doesn’t mean the amount of cigarettes you smoke, the number of drinks you have or the drugs that they use: it is to do with the effects of taking a particular substance.

Basically, if your addiction is the focus of your life then you need to seek treatment.

Is dependency the same as an addiction?

This is a tricky question as some people see these terms as interchangeable whereas others argue that they are separate conditions.

Addiction occurs when something you do on a casual basis becomes a habit which you are unable to break. So if you enjoy going out for a few drinks a couple of nights in the week but this becomes every night then it can be said that you have developed an addiction.

Dependency then occurs if you feel unable to cope without access to a substance or if you suffer from withdrawal symptoms if you do. This is often the case if your addiction has been present for a long period of time.

There are some experts who argue that you can be dependent on a substance without becoming an addict. But can you be an addict but not have a dependency?


One explanation is that someone can be taking a prescription drug for a long period of time and have developed a dependency on that drug. In this situation they have been taking a legitimate drug but their body has adapted to the dosage and requires higher doses in order to achieve the same effect. But they do not achieve a ‘high’ or a feeling of elation (‘buzz’) or any other extreme reaction.

Dependency can occur with other activities such as shopping, internet use, chocolate, food, gambling etc. But if these are withdrawn then the person concerned doesn’t experience any physical withdrawal symptoms. They might feel peeved or frustrated - for example not being able to indulge their taste for retail therapy, but it will not affect their health.

However, an addiction causes physical and psychological changes in the body and removing the source of this or going without results in withdrawal symptoms such as ‘the shakes’, nausea, insomnia, irritability and paranoia. Examples of this include cigarettes, drugs and alcohol.

Another aspect is that many people consider an ‘addiction’ to be more severe than ‘dependency’.  Many people have a mental image of a ‘drug addict’ as someone who leads a sordid lifestyle, injecting themselves with drugs and generally, at rock bottom. They are often seen as a hopeless case and less worthy of help than someone with a dependency.

Choose between these two

If you are still not sure then consider this:

a. Do you need that substance to relieve pain due to a chronic illness or injury, e.g. painkillers, prescription drugs etc? This will enable you to function as normal but without any changes in mood or behaviour.


b. Do you experience physical and mental cravings for that substance which you know will give you a ‘buzz?’ This substance will satisfy your cravings and give you that feeling of euphoria that you cannot do without.

If you answered ‘a’ then you could be said to have a dependency. But if you answered ‘b’  then you may have an addiction.

This is a very simplistic way of deciding and we would recommend that you talk to someone or seek professional help.

But before you do here is a list of possible signs of an addiction which may help:

  • Reduced or loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Tiredness
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Anger
  • Irritability and frustration
  • Lack of patience with one’s self and others
  • Lack of concentration
  • Paranoia
  • Neglecting your appearance/poor personal hygiene

These are physical and mental signs of an addiction but there are social changes to also consider such as withdrawing from other people, lack of interest in what they do, not wanting to socialise or mixing with people who you might have considered ‘undesirable’ before now.

If you find that you are spending vast amounts of money on your addiction or other people consider you to have become unreliable or untrustworthy then this also indicates a problem.

Have your colleagues at work noticed a difference in you? Is timekeeping a problem? Do you find that you have trouble concentrating at work or are bad tempered or moody?

Finally, do you feel you are losing control?

It is often the case that friends or family will tell you if they think you have an addiction rather than you recognising this for yourself.

But it is important for you to admit that you have a problem and want to give up.

This will be difficult but the first and most important step in the treatment process is realising that you are an addict - whether that is caffeine, tobacco, alcohol or ‘soft/hard’ drugs.

The next step is obtaining help which is covered in greater detail in our treating a drug addiction section.

Speak to your GP, support groups and/or special helplines as these are invaluable when it comes to beating an addiction.


© Medic8® | All Rights Reserved