Am I an Addict? Addiction Self Test

The most recent report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that in San Diego and surrounding areas, the use of substances like heroin and methamphetamine were on the rise 1. However, the report fails to make the important distinction between substance abuse and addiction.

Recognizing addiction isn’t always easy and the line between substance abuse, dependence, and addiction can seem quite thin. If you’re asking yourself the question, “Am I an addict?” it’s important to thank yourself for taking the first major step toward recovery.

In an expansion of our in-person addiction treatment programs at Healthy Life Recovery, we’ve put together this addiction self-test to help individuals better understand the extent of their substance use.

Addiction Self Test

Do you ever use drugs for something other than a medical reason?

What is Addiction?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a chronic medical disease 2. Acknowledging it as such can help us establish a more firm and realistic understanding of what individuals struggling with addiction are experiencing. Addiction is not simply a temporary condition but a disease that requires both medical and therapeutic treatment.

Addiction is incredibly complex. It involves an individual’s brain circuitry as well as their genetic predispositions. It is also influenced by outside factors such as an individual’s environment and the circumstances that affect their day-to-day life.

It is the interrelatedness of these factors that separates addiction from dependence and substance abuse. We will provide further clarity in the section below.

Dependence vs Addiction: Important Distinctions

You may find that terms like “dependence” and “addiction” are used interchangeably at times, but the reality is that these are two distinct things. In order to determine the best treatment for you, it can be very helpful to understand the difference between the two and which one describes your condition best. We also discuss the term “substance abuse” to provide further clarity.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse describes an action, as opposed to a physical, mental, or medical condition. Many individuals abuse a substance at least once in their lifetime without developing a dependence or addiction.

A substance is abused when it is used more than recommended. For example, moderate drinking is typically defined as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men 3. Heavy drinking, in turn, is defined as more than four drinks in one day for women and five drinks in one day for men.

Alternatively, it is typically referred to as substance abuse when an individual uses any illegal drug or misuses a prescription drug.

Certain uses of drugs or alcohol can be considered substance abuse, even if the behavior doesn’t become habit-forming for an individual.

Drug or Alcohol Dependence

Drug or alcohol dependence is more serious than substance abuse but should not be confused with addiction. Drug or alcohol dependence refers specifically to the physical or chemical dependence on a substance. It is typically a symptom of addiction, but does not cover the full spectrum of what addiction is.

Drugs that lead to dependence alter the mind upon entering the body, affecting the chemical makeup of the brain. Specifically, they affect our neurotransmitters that tell our mind or body what to do and how to react. Most drugs affect the neurotransmitters that are responsible for feelings of pleasure or reward, such as dopamine and serotonin.

Ultimately, if something triggers these pleasure centers, our minds and bodies look for ways to recreate that effect. When we use substances to achieve those feelings, our brains also look for ways to create some semblance of balance. As a result, the brain may cease transmitting, absorbing, or even creating those neurotransmitters.

When the latter occurs, we often begin talking about “tolerance,” meaning that your body is getting used to a substance and requiring more of it to achieve the desired effect. Realistically, what tolerance means is that you’re left with two options to fire off those pleasurable neurotransmitters. You can take more of a substance more frequently or you can wean yourself off of the substance and allow your body to naturally reach equilibrium again.

If you develop a dependence on a substance, it is likely that you will experience feelings of withdrawal when the effects of the substance wear off.

What Are the Symptoms of Withdrawal?

Withdrawal symptoms vary based on factors such as the substance in question and the extent of the dependence.

However, common withdrawal symptoms include:

Loss of appetite and/or nausea

Insomnia or trouble sleeping



Chills or sweats

Shaking or muscle fatigue

Discomfort and irritability

Remember, this list is not exhaustive, nor will every individual experience each of these symptoms of withdrawal. However, if you have developed a substance dependence, you can expect symptoms to begin around four to six hours after the substance begins to wear off. Withdrawal often peaks after ten hours and many people begin to feel relief after the first 24-72 hours.

Find out more about Post-Acute Withdrawal symptoms.

What Sets Addiction Apart

So how, exactly, is addiction different from dependence? Dependence, as we mentioned earlier, refers specifically to a physical or chemical reaction to repeated substance use. When we’re talking about addiction, there is far more to it.

Addiction involves an emotional or mental response to substance abuse that makes it very difficult for an individual to stop using that substance. Studies have found that for the addicted individual, the odds of attaining sobriety (and staying sober) increase with factors like attending a rehab program, setting up a transitional care plan, and continuing to attend support groups for the foreseeable future 4.

In other words, some people who have developed a dependence may not struggle to stop using, even if they take those steps independently. Addiction, on the other hand, is a chronic disease that may require lifelong treatment in order to avoid relapse.

Am I An Addict? 11 Signs of Addiction

What are the most common signs of addiction? Let’s take a look at some of the questions you can ask yourself to assess your own health. If at least two of these signs have been present in the span of one year, it is highly possible that what you are living with is addiction.


Inability to Stop Using Regardless of Attempts or Desires

Have you found yourself desiring sobriety or attempting to quit at least once? Did the desire to continue using overcome your desire for sobriety? Did you find that attempts to quit lead, at some point, to relapse?


Increase in Dosage or Usage

Have you found that you’re using a substance more than you originally intended? This can include larger doses or more frequent usage.

Alternatively, have your behaviors surrounding substance use changed? For example, did substance use begin as a social activity and transform into something more akin to a need?


Substance Cravings

Do you find it difficult to avoid thinking about a substance when the effects have worn off? Do you actively look forward to or crave your next opportunity to use a substance?

Note that cravings are typically tied to triggers, which refer to specific elements–like emotions, events, or people–that cause us to want or need to use a substance. The trigger is the cause and the craving is the effect.


Increased Effort to Acquire Substance

Do you spend a great deal of time thinking of ways to acquire more of a substance? Do you prioritize the purchasing of a substance over the purchase of necessities such as food or bills? Do you find that you spend a good portion of your day recovering from substance abuse?


Prioritization of Substance Use Over Previously Enjoyed Activities

Have you lost sight of the value in certain social or recreational activities that previously brought you joy or fulfillment? Have you stopped participating in those activities in favor of activities that involve or allow for substance use? Do you find that it is difficult to enjoy social or recreational activities when not feeling the effects of a substance?


Repeated Substance Use in Hazardous Situations

Have you put yourself in a dangerous or hazardous position when using a substance? (For example, this could include operating heavy machinery or driving a vehicle while under the influence.) Have you continued to practice this behavior in spite of known danger to yourself and others?


Continued Use in Spite of Known Consequences to Personal Wellness

Do you recognize that your substance use is causing negative emotional or physical consequences? For example, addiction can often lead to increased mental illness or medical conditions. Do you continue to prioritize substance use over improving your personal wellness?


Continued Use in Spite of Known Negative Impact on Relationships and Opportunities

Has your substance use led to interpersonal issues? These issues may be between friends, family members, peers, and employers. Do you continue to prioritize substance use over your important relationships and employment opportunities?


Failure to Meet Responsibilities Due to Substance Use

Has substance use caused you to drop the ball on more than one occasion? Are you becoming less reliable to your friends, family members, peers, and employers? Do you find that people who once considered you a trustworthy person no longer expect you to stay true to your word?


Increased Tolerance to Substance

As we mentioned earlier, dependence typically leads to tolerance, although it is not always easy to detect a growing tolerance within ourselves. Do you find that the effects of a substance don’t seem to be as strong anymore? Can you (or do you need to) consume a substance more frequently or in larger amounts than you could in the past in order to feel the full effect?


Experience of Withdrawal Symptoms After Substance Wears Off

Withdrawal symptoms are often one of the triggers that lead to cravings. Do you find that as a substance wears off, you feel sick, irritable, or restless? Does consuming a substance alleviate those feelings in ways that other factors (like sleep or food) don’t?

What Recovery Options Do I Have?

Now that you’ve read through our addiction self-test and recognize the signs of addiction, you may be wondering what options are available to individuals who are suffering from addiction. We generally don’t refer to things like “going cold turkey” alone as an option, simply because there are safer and more effective ways to recover.

Instead, we recommend looking into the many rehabilitation options. For example, we often recommend medication-assisted treatment. This combines FDA-approved medical treatment with counseling and behavioral therapy to deliver what we call the “whole-patient” approach.

For some individuals, addiction therapy or outpatient programs may prove to be a viable option. We often recommend continuing with these types of programs after completing an in-patient program. As we mentioned earlier, developing a clear aftercare plan and sticking to it can help patients to avoid relapse.

For those suffering from the comorbidity (simultaneous presence) of addiction and mental illness, a dual diagnosis program is often the way to go. In a dual diagnosis program, you can detox safely, begin therapy, and uncover the ways that your addiction and mental illness often feed off of one another. Addressing both ailments can give you a better sense of what you need to live a happy, healthy life.

Find Recovery With Healthy Life Recovery in San Diego

Substance abuse statistics continue to rise in San Diego, putting more and more individuals in the path of addiction. We hope that we’ve helped you address the question, “Am I an addict?”

Our self-test is only the first step in our ability to provide you with answers and relief. Healthy Life Recovery offers a number of programs for individuals who are addicted to alcohol, Xanax, opiates, and more. To find out more about how we can offer our assistance, get in touch with us today.


  1. 1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014, February 18). San Diego County, California. Retrieved November 30, 2020, from
  2. 2. American Society of Addiction Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. 3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Drinking Levels Defined. Retrieved November 30, 2020, from
  4. 4. American Addiction Centers. (2020, October 08). Beating the Relapse Statistics. Retrieved November 30, 2020, from
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