Substance Abuse & Dependence? Am I abusing drugs or alcohol? Am I dependent on drugs and alcohol?
Below we will take a look at some of the clinical criteria for substance dependence and substance abuse, but it is important to remember that many who have decided to get sober (stop using drugs & alcohol) have not experienced many of the things listed below. To read a personal story about a woman who had very few of these outside factors but still felt she needed to stop if she were to save her life, read Facing My Own Addiction. Substance Dependence (includes alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medications, and other mind-altering substances) is usually characterized by a person experiencing at least two or three of the following:
- Two or more unsuccessful tries to reduce or stop using the substance
- Developing a physical tolerance (the need for more of the substance in order to achieve the same effect)
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms as a result of not using the substance, or maintaining substance use in fear of withdrawal symptoms
- Reduced control over the use of the substance or substances in general
- Increased amount of time spent on acquiring, ingesting, experiencing effects of, and recovering from any consequences of the substance, including health, financial, and family
- Putting use and need of substance ahead of other areas of life; withdrawing from normal recreational, spiritual, social, and employment situations in favor of using drugs and/or alcohol
- Persistent use of substances despite clear problems in at least on area of life
Substance Abuse (includes alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medications, and other mind altering substances) is usually the case if a person is experiencing at least one of the following:
- Use is causing significant problems in the family, with employment, friends, relationships, or mental health. (These problems may not be recognized by the person using the drugs – a phenomenon known as denial)
- Use is causing legal problems for the individual (and possibly those around him/her)
- Use of substances is physically threatening to individual (this not only includes how the drug directly effects the body, but also the situations that use leads the person into, i.e. drunk driving, spending time in dangerous areas looking for drugs, increased risk of HIV and Hepatitis C due to IV drug use, etc.)
- Persistent use of substance(s) despite continued problems in any of the above areas.