How Do I Know If I Need Addiction Treatment?

How Do I Know If I Need Addiction Treatment?

Admitting that you may have a problem with drugs or alcohol can be challenging. With many substances like alcohol and marijuana normalized, it can be hard to tell when your casual use has crossed the line to addiction. However, there are several signs you can look out for to help point you in the direction of whether you need addiction treatment or not. 

You Meet More Than Four Criteria for Substance Use Disorder

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines addiction as “a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain.” The DSM-5 is used to diagnose substance use disorder (SUD), with eleven criteria: 

  1. The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended. 
  2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or control use of the substance. 
  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects. 
  4. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the substance, occurs. 
  5. Recurrent use of the substance results in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, home, or school. 
  6. Use of the substance continues despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of substance use.
  7. Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of the substance. 
  8. Use of the substance is recurrent in situations in which it is physically hazardous. 
  9. Use of the substance is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance. 
  10. Tolerance, as defined by: A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect and A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance
  11. Withdrawal, as manifested by: The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for that substance (as specified in the DSM-5 for each substance) and The use of a substance (or closely related substance) to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms


SUD is then divided into three categories: mild, moderate, and severe. Those who meet two or three criteria are considered to have a mild SUD, four or five are deemed moderate, and six or more symptoms indicate severe SUD. If you meet four or more of these criteria, indicating a moderate SUD, it may be time to seek addiction treatment. If you meet the criteria for a mild SUD, it is recommended to speak to your primary care physician to discover the best course of action.  

Your Main Priority Is Drug or Alcohol Use

Drugs and alcohol “hijack” the reward center in your brain, which is why using can seem as necessary as drinking water or eating food. This also means that, when you’re in the throes of addiction, it can be challenging to truly understand your own motivations and intentions. Many addicted people feel like they’re in control and don’t know what the fuss is about. However, the very first step towards sobriety is learning to take a step back and view yourself.

Are you spending most of your time obtaining, using, and recovering from drug or alcohol abuse? If the answer is yes, it may be time to seek treatment for your drug and alcohol use. If you’re willing to neglect social, work, or school responsibilities in favor of harmful substance use, then your brain is no longer putting your well-being first.

Health Problems Arise

Substance use is damaging to the mind and body. Substances have a severe impact on physical health. They also lead to chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters, which can make any existing mental health disorders worse and even cause conditions, such as anxiety and depression, to develop as a result of substance use.

When you are struggling with addiction, you may notice health issues arise. Weight loss due to decreased appetite, digestive problems, insomnia, sweating, shaking, nosebleeds, headaches, and memory problems can be signs that drugs and alcohol are taking a toll on your well-being. If you frequently experience health problems, it may be time to seek treatment. 

Friends and Family Express Concern

When you struggle with addiction, it can be hard to see the reality of the life you are living. On the other hand, those closest to you will be able to see the shift that substances cause more clearly. When those you love begin to express concern, it may be time for treatment. These people may even push you to seek treatment. 

It’s important to remember that loved ones expressing concern is not an attack on you. They are only trying to help you help yourself. Your behavior might have changed significantly over time, and it can be shocking and scary to see loved ones continually make decisions that are harmful to them in the long term. Try not to argue with your friends and family, but listen to them and explain how you feel. Together, you can come to a solution.