Addiction or Habit: How to Tell if you have a Problem

While many people experiment with addictive substances at some point in their life, some develop an addiction while others do not. Sometimes, it may be difficult to differentiate between addiction or a habit. However, there are many telltale signs that will help determine whether or not you have a problem with drugs.

1. Choice and Control

People who suffer from addiction have lost the ability to choose whether or not they get high as well as the power to control the amount that they use. For example, a person who uses drugs habitually may be able to take one, while the addict feels as though one is never enough. In addition, if a person who has a drug habit is facing legal consequences if they keep getting high, they will be able to put the drugs down. On the other hand, the addict will wholeheartedly believe that they will be able to stop using, then find themselves picking up once again.

2. Tolerance and Dependence

When a person consumes a drug repeatedly over an extended period of time, their brain will begin to demand more and more of the substance to produce the desired effects. For instance, if a person is struggling with heroin abuse, their brain will begin to demand the overflow of dopamine that the drug produces, making it difficult to achieve the same high over and over again. When a person has developed tolerance to a substance, they will usually develop dependence as well. Drug dependence occurs when the body requires a substance to function normally, resulting in withdrawal symptoms when the drug is not taken. If you notice yourself having an increasing tolerance and physical dependency on drugs, you may be addicted.

3. Lying to Friends and Family

Are you constantly lying to your friends and family about your drug use? Maybe you have to make up a lie to get out of a family outing in order to obtain your drugs, or maybe you are nodding out at the dinner table but claiming to be tired. Despite the situation, feeling as though you need to lie about your drug use is a good indication that you may be addicted. Many addicts will lie about their habit in order to avoid conflict and embarrassment. They may also feel as though their family or friends might treat them differently if they know the truth.

4. Avoiding Important Obligations

If a person has a habit, they will still tend to their responsibilities and obligations. However, for those who suffer from addiction, their drugs will come first. This could mean calling out of work sick while you are experiencing withdrawals, leaving work early or taking long lunch breaks to get your drugs, or spending more money on drugs than you can comfortably afford. If drugs are the first thing you think of when you wake up and the last thing you think of before going to sleep, you may put drugs at your utmost priority, suggesting that you may be addicted.

5. Fear of Sobriety

Do you feel anxious or fearful when you think about either running out of drugs or getting sober? If so, this is a sign that you may be addicted to a substance. Fear tends to drive addicts to continue their behaviors for many reasons. Some are afraid of their loved ones finding out the truth, some are afraid of experiencing withdrawals, and some are afraid of how they will live and cope with life without the use of mood or mind-altering substances. This fear can also be experienced if your prescription runs out or if your drug dealer isn’t answering the phone. Regardless of the situation, if fear drives your behaviors when it comes to drugs, you may be addicted.

If you relate to any of all of these signs, you might be addicted to drugs. While nobody wants to admit that they are addicted, recovery is possible. It is estimated that nearly 23 million people are living sober lives in recovery from addiction. All it takes to embark on a journey of recovery is admitting you have a problem and being willing to accept the help.


Kate is a passionate writer living in recovery. She likes to advocate for people in recovery, go hiking with her dog, Jake, and spend time with her family.