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How do you know if you need rehab treatment for a drug or alcohol problem? If you are asking that question, pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself. Simply asking that question takes courage. This article will help you arrive at an answer.
Signs and Symptoms of a Substance Use Disorder
A diagnosed substance use disorder is the strongest indication you need rehab—and only an in-depth medical and clinical assessment by an addiction treatment specialist can tell you whether you have a drug or alcohol addiction.
For any other potentially serious medical condition, you would probably consult the appropriate doctor rather than rely on self-diagnosis. For an eye problem, you would go to an ophthalmologist. For chronic insomnia, you would go to a sleep specialist. And the same applies to a drug or alcohol problem. As a treatable disease, substance abuse first requires a professional diagnosis by those qualified to make it.
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That said, knowing the very general signs and symptoms of chemical dependency can help you better determine whether a free consultation with an addiction counselor is the next right step toward getting a reliable diagnosis. Those signs and symptoms (far from being clinically exhaustive diagnostic criteria) include the following:
- Getting drunk or high often
- Heavy and/or binge drinking or using
- Losing interest in favorite activities or hobbies
- Frequent tardiness, absenteeism or evading responsibilities at work or school
- Otherwise unexplainable health problems or accidents
- Dramatic shifts in mood
- Significant fluctuations in appetite and/or weight
- Noticeable changes in personal hygiene (not bathing or changing clothes for days)
- Poor concentration
- Suicidal tendencies
- Patterns of reclusiveness tied to getting drunk or high
- Using substances to cope with painful emotions or life stressors
How Else to Know if You Need Rehab
Such signs and symptoms may indicate you need rehab, but there are other even more obvious indications of a need for rehab:
You have been ordered by the court to go to rehab
If you have a record of multiple DUI’s for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and a court has ordered you to go to rehab, then it is a good time to recognize you need treatment. That may seem like a no brainer, but it is also the case that alcoholism and other forms of addiction are, as someone once put it, “the only disease that tries to convince you that you don’t have it.” So powerful is this denial that even a court order requiring rehab may not be able to break through it.
Your closest family, friends and loved ones have been trying to get you into rehab
The same denial that pretends a court order is something other than a message that you need rehab can also keep you from recognizing a need for rehab before your family and friends do. Typically, those closest to you are the first to recognize you have a drug or alcohol problem. And chances are that if your family and friends are urging you to get help, or have already challenged you to get treatment via a formal intervention, it is because they have been noticing troubling signs and symptoms over an extended period of time.
Even a “high-functioning alcoholic” will eventually encounter expressions of concern from loved ones who have picked up on a pattern of heavy or binge drinking. That, too, can suggest rehab is necessary.
The late singer Amy Winehouse, who at the age of 27 reportedly died from alcohol poisoning after battling addiction, once crooned the lyrics of the song “Rehab”: “They tried to make me go to rehab, but I said ‘no, no, no.’” If your loved ones are “trying to make you go to rehab,” it may be because you genuinely need treatment.
You have experienced negative consequences from your use of drugs or alcohol
If your use of drugs or alcohol has led to a job termination, troubles with the law, or the break-up of a close relationship, that can mean you need rehab. But the negative consequences of a drug or alcohol problem also do not have to sound this dramatic to signify a need for rehab. For example, if constant reliance on prescription painkiller medications is making it increasingly difficult for you to be present for and to enjoy key moments in your child’s growing-up years, that is a negative consequence well-worth rehab.
An experience of the adverse, residual health impact of drugs or alcohol can be another clue you need rehab. If frequent binge drinking precedes instances of blackout and accidental injury, for example, that is a warrant for treatment. Or, if popping Adderall pills to cram for college exams has contributed to a psychiatric disorder like anxiety or depression, that can signal it is time to get help.
Your life seems unmanageable—with or without the help of drugs or alcohol
If you have convinced yourself that you cannot manage life without drugs or alcohol, chances are you need rehab. That recognition may also come paired with the nagging realization that life on drugs or alcohol is also unmanageable, and that more and more of a substance ultimately only makes you feel less in control of your circumstances—even as you cannot imagine ever being able to live a life that is sober and fulfilling.
You feel unable to stop drinking or doing drugs
This perceived helplessness over a drug or alcohol problem is what 12-Step recovery principles term “powerlessness,” meaning that will power alone is not enough to stop the compulsion to use. In this sense, the disease and its progression make you feel out of control. If you find yourself on this threshold, you may need rehab.