Am I an Addict?

At our addiction treatment center, dozens of people call every week with the same question. They want to know “Am I an addict?”. This is a difficult question to answer and different professionals will give a different answer. Your local Miami medical doctor, a counselor at a drug or alcohol rehab, and a neurobiologist all see addiction from different perspectives. Luckily, all therapists use the same standard to classify an individual with addiction. This standard can be found in the DSM and ICD-10.

The diagnosis has eleven different criteria. It is used in all addiction treatment centers in Miami and around the world. Each criterion is a yes or no question. They ask the client if it applies to their use in the last year. This is used for all substances from alcohol to cocaine to heroin. They are the following:

  • Had times when you ended up using more, or longer, than you intended?
  • More than once wanted to cut down or stop using, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  • A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use, or recover from its effects.
  • Spent a lot of time using? Or being sick or getting over other aftereffects?
  • Found that using—or being sick from using—often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  • Continued to use even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  • Given up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting to you, or gave you pleasure, in order to use?
  • More than once gotten into situations while or after using that increased your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)?
  • Continued to use even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  • Used much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual amount had much less effect than before?
  • Found that when the effects of the drug were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, a racing heart, or a seizure? Or sensed things that were not there?

Some of the questions are affected by culture. Such as, does it is it causing trouble with your family or friends? This is going to be different if you have family in Miami verses in a more conservative area. People also view different substances differently. Some family systems may have conflict if any amount of a substance is used.

Depending on how many times a client answers yes, they are classified into four categories. They either are below the threshold for substance use disorder or are diagnosed with a mild, moderate, or severe disorder. Substance use disorders are viewed on a continuum. A client isn’t either an addict or not. Everyone falls somewhere on a spectrum (with no substance use disorder at one end of the spectrum).

*Diagnosis can only be done by a licensed professional