Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Do I Have an Addiction?

Ask yourself these 11 questions to see if substances have become a problem.

Source: Pixabay/Pexels

Do I have an addiction? It’s a question many of us wonder, especially when those around us suggest we do, but we’re still ambivalent, if not staunchly against the idea. So how can we know if we have a problem that requires substance abuse treatment?

What I often tell people is that, unlike medical fields that can find cancer in the body by doing a CT scan or MRI, we don’t yet have that capacity in mental health care. So, the way we measure mental health conditions is by the degree they impact a patient’s day-to-day life.

11 Things to Look For

In thinking about addiction in particular, there are 11 things I look at to see how big or small the tumor is, metaphorically speaking. These key points help determine your need for substance abuse treatment:

  1. Do you take the substance in larger amounts or for longer than you’re meant to?
  2. Have you tried to cut down or stop using the substance but have not managed to do it?
  3. Do you spend a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance?
  4. Do you have cravings and urges to use the substance?
  5. Do you not manage to do what you should at work, home, or school because of substance use?
  6. Do you continue to use, even when it causes problems in relationships?
  7. Have you given up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use?
  8. Do you use substances again and again, even when it puts you in danger?
  9. Do you continue to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance?
  10. Have you needed more of the substance to get the effect you want (tolerance)?
  11. Do you develop withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the substance, which can be relieved by taking more of the substance?

If two to three of these ring true, that would be considered a mild substance use disorder. If four to five ring true, that would be considered a moderate substance use disorder. If six-plus ring true, that would be considered a severe substance use disorder.

Depending on the severity and the problems incurred, it may indicate a different substance abuse treatment setting. At the lowest level, there is outpatient treatment, while at the highest is inpatient detox. In between are residential and intensive outpatient treatment programs.

The goal is always to find the least restrictive treatment setting that can meet your needs. It would not be ideal to have someone in a residential setting if they’re able to meet their substance abuse treatment goals in outpatient settings.

More from Rubin Khoddam Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Rubin Khoddam Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today