Are you concerned about your drug or alcohol use? Do you wonder whether or not you have a problem? Maybe your spouse, child or a relative is a concern. How much is too much?
This is how doctors define addiction:
In Medicine we differentiate between healthy substance use, substance abuse and a substance use disorder. Let’s discuss Alcohol for example.
One standard drink is the following:Men should drink no more than 4 standard drinks in a day and less than 14 in a week.
Women should drink no more than 3 standard drinks per day and less than 7 in a week.
This is per the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse recommendation.
If you drink more than the above recommended amount you are considered to be abusing alcohol. Abuse of a drug or alcohol implies that you may have some problems related to the use.
That annoying hang over on Monday, the irritability on Tuesday, forgetting to pay a bill on Wednesday or putting out the trash on Thursday. Spending too much on Friday and the horrendous hangover on Saturday and repeat on Sunday. If you can recognize these problems and willingly stop or cut back to a healthy amount you may only be abusing alcohol.
But, what if you can’t cut back?
The next category is an Alcohol or Drug Use Disorder. The “disorder” part of this diagnosis implies that DESPITE THE PROBLEMS YOU CAN’T SEEM TO DRINK OR USE LESS.
If you can’t cut back despite the problems you need help.
Let me say that again.
If you can’t stop drinking or using drugs despite problems, YOU NEED HELP!
Maybe you don’t think your problems are so severe. You may say “well at least I still have this or that,” and yes that’s true but not for long. Every addict has told me this, there was some point in time when they still had this or that but then it changed. The truth is the longer you entertain your addiction the more of this or that will go away. Often times I hear from someone in rehab or who went to an AA meeting stating “I can’t believe the stories I hear, I thought I screwed up but [so and so] went so much further and lost so much more.”
The idea or a problem is very subjective. Everyone has a different view on what it is.
So let’s try to define “problem.” Generally speaking it is when a drug or alcohol causes stress. Yes even the slightest discomfort.
The severity of an addiction is directly correlated to how many problems an addict will tolerate. The irony is that they do not actually tolerate the stress, instead they suppress it via substance use. The more problems that arise due to their substance abuse the more they have to abuse the substance to escape the stress from the problems.
In medicine we define the severity of an addiction with the following criteria and if you say yes to less than 4 you have a mild use disorder, yes to 4-5 yes a moderate use disorder:
- Increased tolerance
- Inability to cut down
- Using/drinking more than intended
- Spending a lot of time obtaining, using and recovering
- Giving up social activities to use instead
- Giving up major life responsibilities
- Social/interpersonal conflict due to use
- Using in hazardous situations
- Keep using despite adverse consequences
If you said yes to 6 of these or more you have a Severe Substance Use Disorder.
If you think you may need help check out 5 Steps to Beat Your Addiction
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