Knowing when you need help with substance use may be hard to identify. This is particularly true if you have used for a long time and feel like you have a handle on the situation. A lot of people have the same problem you do. In 2013, an estimated 22.7 million Americans needed help with drug and alcohol-related problems, but only 2.5 million received help.
The best way to determine if you need help is to consider these 10 questions. If you can answer yes to any one of them, then it may be time to seek professional help.
Do you put your life or the lives of others in danger?
In 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimated that 1,017,808 drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of substances. That works out to one arrest for every 215 U.S. licensed drivers. If that is not a staggering enough statistic, roughly 30 people died each day in 2017 because of drunk driving. That is a death every 48 minutes.
Under the influence does not mean falling down drunk. A slight buzz is enough to slow down your reflexes and impair judgment. With as little as .02 percent blood alcohol concentration, you may experience:
- Loss of judgment
- The decline in the ability to track a moving target, such as oncoming traffic
- The decline in the ability to perform two tasks at one time, such as pressing the brake while tracking traffic at a cross street
Beyond intoxication and driving, substance abuse can lead to harming your health and others in other ways such as the following:
- Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is caused when a woman’s use of narcotics or alcohol lead to her giving birth to a child who goes through withdrawal at birth.
- Sharing needles leads to the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.
- In a recent study, 81 percent of women and 69 percent of men who used drugs were victims of physical or sexual abuse.
Do you have health problems related to your usage?
If your doctor has voiced concern that your substance use is affecting your health, it may be time to seek help. While treatment may not reverse all effects of your addiction, it can slow down the impact going forward.
The substances you ingest, inject or inhale strain just about every part of your body, including your organs, nervous system, and brain. How your addiction affects your health is dependent on your substance of choice. Some common ailments attributed to drug or alcohol usage include:
- Mental illness
- Lung and heart disease
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
Even if you do not go to the doctor, you can tell how you feel. Do you find yourself lacking energy or focus? Are you coughing up blood? Does your body ache? Are there sores on your body that refuse to heal? Have you experienced flu-like symptoms for more than a few days? Do you have trouble staying awake or sleeping on a regular schedule? These are all signs that something is not right with your body and mind.
Does your usage affect our job, education or home life?
It is easy to think you have a handle on your addiction until you can’t. Some signs that you might not be handling your substance use as well as you thought include:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Being late for work or leaving early frequently
- The use of all your sick leave
- The quality of your work going down
- The frequency of errors increasing
- Lunchtime spent getting high
- Grades and attendance in school dropping
- Avoidance of friends and family or spending most of your time with them fighting
When you stop taking your substance of choice, do you experience withdrawal symptoms?
Experiencing withdrawal symptoms is a good sign that your body has become addicted to the drug or alcohol you consume. These withdrawal symptoms can range from mildly annoying to downright agonizing. The severity and duration of these symptoms depend on how long you have been using, the level of dependency, how you are using such as snorting, drinking or injecting, how healthy you are and your genetic predisposition to addiction.
Some common withdrawal symptoms include:
- Craving the substance
- Flu-like symptoms
You may experience all these symptoms or just one or two, but if the symptom is relieved by feeding it the substance of choice, then you likely have an addiction and need professional treatment.
Have you been arrested?
If you have been arrested for a drug or alcohol-related offense, the judge may require you to seek help from a treatment program. If that is the case, the obvious answer to avoiding jail time is to go into a treatment program.
With this question, delve a little deeper. Have you been arrested for any reason that can be related to your substance use? Were you arrested for stealing to support your habit? Were you arrested for starting a fight while under the influence? Were you arrested for a crime you don’t even remember because you were high at the time?
Any time the law gets involved with your life over something you have done because of your usage, it is a good time to seek help. Recovery is a better option than imprisonment where someone else will control your life.
Have friends and family asked you to quit?
Friends and family have the advantage of seeing changes in your behavior that you may not have noticed. If they have asked you to quit taking drugs or drinking, it is time to seek help. If you do not trust one person’s opinion, ask others if they have noticed the same signs of addiction. Trust that your addiction is hindering your ability to see your own destructive behavior.
Even if your family and friends have not openly asked you to quit, has their behavior toward you changed? Will your spouse no longer leave the children in your care? Are your friends no longer talking to you because you owe them money that you used to support your habit? Have you been accused of lying or stealing? Have your parents hidden all the liquor in the house or forbidden you from coming home if you are drunk or high?
Have you lost your job, been kicked out of school or lost your family because of your addiction?
If you have lost your job, been kicked out of school or been asked to leave the family home, it is not too late to pull your life back together. These are some good signs that you are not managing your substance use as well as you think.
Treatment can put you back on the right path to a long and happy life. Spend some time thinking about everything you have lost and what you want to do with your life. Discuss the ground rules with your family for moving back into the family home. Odds are good that recovery is the first step to pulling it back together again.
Do you lie about your usage?
Recreational drug use or social drinking is a slippery slope that can lead to a hard-to-kick addiction, especially if you are genetically prone to addiction. It is easy to tell yourself that you just want to relax or are taking drugs because it is what your friends do, but when your usage starts affecting your quality of life, it is time to ask the hard questions. Are you lying to yourself and others about your recreational usage?
Here are some signs that your occasional drug use or alcohol consumption has turned into a habit:
- Do you wake up thinking about your next hit?
- Are you drinking or using more days of the week than not?
- Do you lie to others when they ask if you are high?
- Are you spending money set aside for basic necessities, such as food and shelter, on your habit?
- Does using make you feel better about yourself?
- Are you using drugs or alcohol as a reward for fulfilling obligations?
- Does using feel more important than friends and family?
- Does it take an increasingly larger dose to feel better?
- Are your children afraid of you when you drink or use?
If you answered yes and can think of instances when you have lied or covered up your usage, then your usage may have crossed that line into a destructive addiction.
Do you feel like you can’t quit or want to quit and don’t know how?
If you have tried to quit but have not been able to for any significant period of time, you likely have an addiction. When you fail, you may make excuses by saying to yourself:
- “There is too much going on in my life to quit right now.”
- “Why should I quit? I don’t have a habit.”
- “I’m under too much stress right now.”
- “I’ve got it under control.”
- “I’ll just reduce my usage a little at a time.”
- “My usage isn’t hurting anyone but me.”
Substance use has a way of wearing you down until you feel incapable of stopping. That is where the specialists at a treatment facility can step in and give you hope. No matter how long you have been using or what your substance of choice is, a treatment program is available to help you take control of your life again. While fighting addiction may feel like an impossible task, trained addiction specialists can break the fight down into manageable skirmishes, including the development of lifelong habits that will help you long after you leave.
Have you harmed yourself or others while using?
Depending on your substance of choice, you may have found yourself frequently thinking about harming yourself or others. Have you woken up with injuries and you could not remember how you got them? Even if you have not acted on those thoughts yet, you are at risk of doing so in the future. Gaining help with your addiction is a good first step to protecting yourself against self-harm and against harming others.
Don’t be one of the 20 million addicts who does not receive treatment each year. Ask yourself the tough questions, and if you see signs of addiction, then seek help. Think of it this way: If you were trying to lift a car, you would not do it alone. You would ask for help and use the tools available to you to make the job easier. Addiction can feel just like that car. There is no shame in asking for help.