Substance use can be misleading. What starts as a frivolous attempt to relax or regulate stress can quickly become a pattern that leaves many to question, “Am I an addict?” If you’re wondering if you’ve crossed the line between recreational use and addiction, you’re not alone as addiction can be difficult to recognize. However, some telltale signs of addiction may signify a substance abuse disorder.
Military personnel and veterans have uniquely stressful occupations. Due in part to this, substance use is commonplace in the military culture, either in an effort to “blow off some steam” or to treat chronic conditions associated with service-related injuries. In addition, self-medicating conditions like PTSD, depression, and anxiety are not uncommon among this population. While self-medicating this level of trauma may be understandable, regular drug use can still transition to addiction in these cases.
Substance Abuse vs Addiction
Technically speaking, there are differences between drug or alcohol abuse, addiction, and dependence. Therefore, the first step to answering the question, “Am I an addict,” is understanding the difference between these categories.
In short, drug abuse can be viewed as a stepping stone to addiction or dependence. Examples of drug abuse include using any illegal substances or using legal drugs recreationally. Taking a friend’s prescription to get high would be an example of drug abuse. Similarly, daily heavy drinking would be considered alcohol misuse.
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Alternatively, addiction involves habitual use of a substance despite negative consequences elsewhere, such as professionally or health-wise. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM 5), six or more of the 11 substance abuse disorder criteria would indicate addiction.
The 11 criteria include:
- Taking more of the drug (or alcohol) than intended
- Drug cravings
- Slipping at work or school
- Continuing use despite trouble in relationships due to use
- Spending most of the time high or recovering from use
- Choosing substance use over other opportunities
- Habitual use despite awareness of health risks
- Drug tolerance
- Wanting to quit but not being able to
- Continuing use despite the negative impact on mental health
- Drug withdrawal symptoms when the drug is unavailable
Any less than six criteria indicates a mild (two to three criteria) to moderate (four to five criteria) substance abuse disorder. In this way, addiction is the most severe form of substance abuse disorder.
Addiction vs Dependence
Drug and alcohol dependence is not the same as drug addiction, although the two conditions can occur simultaneously. Addiction is the result of habitual drug or alcohol use that results in a psychological reliance on a chemical substance. This psychological addiction can occur without physical dependence.
On the other hand drug dependence usually refers to the physical dependence the body has on a chemical substance. In this way, dependence can occur without addiction. For example, a person who has been prescribed a benzodiazepine for anxiety may end up physically dependent on the prescription even if they have only taken it as prescribed. In this case, the individual is not getting high off of the drug or compulsively driven towards use. However, the body is still reliant on the drug, and now must be tapered off the substance to avoid withdrawals.
Am I an Addict? Recognizing Red Flags
If you’re concerned that substance use has turned into abuse or addiction or dependency, you can use the 11 DSM 5 criteria listed above as a guideline to understand if you have a substance abuse disorder or addiction. Consider things like avoiding activities that don’t allow you to use a substance, needing more of a substance to achieve the same feelings, or craving a substance while not using. These are strong indicators that an addiction is developing.
Another strong indication of addiction or dependency is drug withdrawal. Drug or alcohol withdrawals occur when the body has come to rely on the presence of a drug and it is suddenly missing from a person’s system. Drug withdrawal symptoms will depend on the drug being used. However, in general signs of withdrawals include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Mood swings or irritability
- Hallucinations or delusions (in severe cases)
If you notice signs of withdrawal or addiction, veteran-specific help is available. At Heroes’ Mile addiction treatment center in Central Florida, we understand that veterans and active military members may be reluctant to ask for help due to things like pride and the stigma against drug use. However, we ensure confidentiality during both inquiries, detox, and addiction treatment.
What to Expect When You Start a Veteran Substance Abuse Program
Am I an addict? The first step to answering this question is an assessment. Once the treatment team has evaluated your specific condition, the start of veteran rehab depends on your unique relationship with substances. For example, if a physical dependency has been established, medical drug or alcohol detoxification will be started first. In this way, drugs can be safely cleared from the system before furthering treatment. After this five to seven day process, residential rehab for veterans will be suggested.
The veteran drug rehab program at Heroes’ Mile follows a 12-step addiction treatment philosophy. However, each program is tailored to a person’s specific needs. Further, treatment will address military-specific experiences, such as post-traumatic stress and military sexual trauma. Our treatment modalities are vast and include programs like individual and group counseling as well as recreational, art, and equine therapy.
How to Find Veteran Rehab in Deland, Florida
Heroes’ Mile is proud to serve military personnel and provide addiction treatment where veterans support veterans. With military personnel both in treatment and on our staff, we acknowledge that the best way for veterans to quit drugs is through common ground with people who know what they’ve gone through. To learn more about our programs or to enroll today, contact our admissions team at 888-838-6692 or use our confidential contact form.
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