Step by Step Guides to Finding Treatment for Drug Use Disorders
How To Recognize a Substance Use Disorder

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If you can't stop taking a drug even if you want to, or if the urge to use drugs is too strong to control, even if you know the drug is causing harm, you might be addicted.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you think about drugs a lot?
  2. Did you ever try to stop or cut down on your drug usage but couldn't?
  3. Have you ever thought you couldn't fit in or have a good time without the use of drugs?
  4. Do you ever use drugs because you are upset or angry at other people?
  5. Have you ever used a drug without knowing what it was or what it would do to you?
  6. Have you ever taken one drug to get over the effects of another?
  7. Have you ever made mistakes at a job or at school because you were using drugs?
  8. Does the thought of running out of drugs really scare you?
  9. Have you ever stolen drugs or stolen to pay for drugs?
  10. Have you ever been arrested or in the hospital because of your drug use?
  11. Have you ever overdosed on drugs?
  12. Has using drugs hurt your relationships with other people?

If the answer to some or all of these questions is yes, you might have an addiction. People from all backgrounds can get an addiction. Addiction can happen at any age, but it usually starts when a person is young. 

See NIDA's video: Anyone Can Become Addicted to Drugs

Through scientific advances, we know more than ever about how drugs work in the brain.  We also know that drug addiction can be successfully treated to help people stop using drugs and lead productive lives. If you think you might be addicted, seek the advice of your doctor or an addiction specialist.

Why can't I stop using drugs on my own?

Repeated drug use changes the brain, including parts of the brain that enable you to exert self-control. These and other changes can be seen clearly in brain imaging studies of people with drug addictions. These brain changes explain why quitting is so difficult, even if you feel ready.

See NIDA's video: Why Are Drugs So Hard to Quit?

Will they make me stop taking drugs immediately?

The first step in treatment is "detox," which helps patients remove all of the drugs from their system. This is important because drugs impair the mental abilities you need to stay in treatment. When patients first stop using drugs, they can experience a variety of physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders; restlessness; and sleeplessness. Treatment centers are very experienced in helping you get through this process and keeping you safe. Depending on what drugs you are addicted to, there may also be medications that will make you feel a little better during drug withdrawal, which makes it easier to stop using.

What if I have been in rehab before?

This means you have already learned many of the skills needed to recover from addiction and should try it again. Relapse should not discourage you. Relapse rates with addiction are similar to rates for other chronic diseases many people live with, such as hypertension and asthma. Treatment of chronic diseases involves changing deeply imbedded behaviors, and relapse sometimes goes with the territory—it does not mean treatment failed. A return to drug use indicates that treatment needs to be started again or adjusted, or that you might benefit from a different approach.

People have told me I shouldn't use drugs and drive, but I feel fine when driving. Can I trust my judgment on driving?

The most responsible thing you can do is stop driving while using drugs. This can be inconvenient, but it will show loved ones you are serious about getting better.  Specific drugs act differently on the brain, but all illicit drugs and many prescription drugs impair skills necessary for the safe operation of a vehicle. These include motor skills, balance and coordination, perception, attention, reaction time, and judgment. Even small amounts of some drugs can have measurable effects on driving ability. Drugs also impact your ability to tell if you are impaired, so you should not trust your own judgment on driving until you receive an evaluation and treatment. For more, see our DrugFacts on drugged driving.

NIDA Drugged Driving Infographic

If you drive for a living or need to use a vehicle in the course of your workday, you should be aware of your employer’s tools and responsibilities related to drug testing. There is a Drug-Free Workplace Helpline at 800-967-5752.

I take drugs because I feel depressed—nothing else seems to work. If I stop, I'll feel much worse—how do I deal with that?

It is very possible you need to find treatment for both depression and addiction. This is very common. It’s called "comorbidity," "co-occurrence," or "dual diagnosis" when you have more than one health problem at the same time. It is important that you discuss all of your symptoms and behaviors with your treatment team. There are many nonaddictive drugs that can help with depression or other mental health issues. Sometimes health care providers might not communicate with each other as well as they should, so you can be your own best advocate and make sure all of your health providers know about all of the health issues that concern you. People who have co-occurring issues should be treated for all of them at the same time. For more information see our DrugFacts on comorbidity.

Note: If you ever feel so depressed that you think about hurting yourself, there is a hotline you can call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and you can share all of your problems with them. A caring, nonjudgmental voice will be on the other end, listening.