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How Do I Know If I Have a Drug Problem

Kayla Gill
 February 5th, 2022|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Rajnandini Rathod

A person may know they have a drug problem if they have become dependent on a drug and feel like the drug is needed for functioning. Another way an individual can tell if their drug use is causing a problem is if they are experiencing negative consequences in their home, work, or personal relationships.

When Does Using Drugs Become a Problem?

Drug usage in someone’s life becomes a problem when it negatively affects an individual’s mental, emotional, and physical health. This may manifest as an addiction, withdrawal symptoms, illegal activity, or other negative consequences in their life or the lives of family and friends.

Drugs can also become a problem in someone’s life when they depend on the drug for achieving personal fulfillment at the expense of themselves and/or others.

DSM-V and ICD-10 Criteria for Substance Use Disorders

The table below features the DSM-V and ICD-10 which can be used as a guide to determine if drug usage may be a problem in your life or your loved ones life.

This table is not to be used for a self-diagnosis. Please seek help from a mental health professional for a real diagnosis if you feel like you or your loved one may be experiencing a drug problem.

The presence of at least 2 of the symptoms in the chart below indicates an individual may have a Substance Use Disorder. The severity is defined as: Mild: 2-3 symptoms, Moderate 4-5 symptoms, and Severe 6+ symptoms.The presence of 3 or more of the following should be present together for at least 1 month, or repeatedly during a 1 year period.
In the past year, have you?Have you had?
Had times when you ended up taking the substance more, or longer, than you intended?A strong desire or sense of compulsion to take the psychoactive substance?
More than once wanted to cut down or stop taking the substance, or tried to, but couldn’t?Difficulties in controlling substance-taking behavior in terms of its onset, termination, or levels of use?
Spent a lot of time taking the substance? Or being sick or getting over other aftereffects?A physiological withdrawal state when substance use has ceased or been reduced, as evidenced by: the characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance; or use of the same (or a closely related) substance with the intention of relieving or avoiding withdrawal symptoms?
Wanted the substance so badly you couldn’t think of anything else?Evidence of tolerance, such that increased doses of the psychoactive substance are required in order to achieve effects originally produced by lower doses?
Found that taking the substance interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?Progressive neglect of alternative pleasures or interests because of psychoactive substance use?
Continued to take the substance 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 take the substance?
More than once gotten into situations while or after taking the substance that increase your chances of getting hurt (such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area?)
Continued to take the substance even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
Had to take more of the substance much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual drug dose had much less effect than before?
Found that when the effects of drugs were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating or racing heart?

DSM-V contains a list of criteria that helps determine if an individual may have a Substance Use Disorder. The DSM-V is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders developed by the American Psychiatric Association in 1952. As research and data continues, the APA updates the DSM with current information which is why there is the letter V for the 5th edition.

ICD-10 contains a  list of criteria that helps determine if an individual may have a Substance Use Disorder. The ICD-10 is the International Classification of Diseases developed by the United States National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in 1893. As research and data continues, the APA reviews and updates the ICD with current information which is why there is the number 10 for the 10th revision.

How Can You Find Out?

Many will say if you’re questioning, then that means you have a drug problem and should seek help. Here are a few other ways you can find out if you have a drug problem.

Talk to Your Primary Care Physician

Talk to your primary care physician about your drug use and be honest. They can conduct an assessment and refer you to another health professional or level of care if needed.

Get an Assessment with a Mental Health Professional

The best and recommended way to know if you have a drug problem is to get an assessment with a mental health professional. Since they’re experts, they’ll be able to assess the severity of a substance use disorder and recommend the level of treatment you need. You can talk to your GP about a mental health assessment or find other providers who can give one.

Try Minimizing or Stopping Drugs

Note: this is not safe if you consistently take drugs, as drug withdrawal can be life-threatening. If you have not become dependent on drugs though and think you may have a problem, see if you can go without the drug or significantly reduce your drug intake. Does it cause anxiety? Are you struggling to stop?

Take an Online Quiz

Here are a few common online quizzes regarding drugs. The general quizzes below are not meant to be a diagnosis, but more of a spectrum guide of your drug usage.

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