With so much information available at our fingertips, there is also a lot of misinformation available as well. This is especially true in regards to drug addiction and alcoholism.
In fact, when you think of an alcoholic, you may even think of a person who is constantly drinking and who lives in the streets. However, that is an incorrect belief as there is actually a lot of variation among those who struggle with substance abuse.
When it comes to addiction, it is normally considered to be a disease, as there are many similar properties when compared to other types of medical illnesses. Addiction is, in fact, an identifiable set of worsening symptoms that can and will impact your mortality if it is not treated.
If you are someone who struggles with alcohol or substance abuse, there is a varying range of how severe your symptoms will be. While there are always going to be some extreme situations of chemical dependency that will eventually lead to you losing everything, the American Psychiatric Association has put out a classification manual that grades your symptoms and classifies them as mild, moderate, or severe.
This rating system is very important from the treatment perspective, as a person with a moderate alcohol disorder can easily get help and prevent their problems from becoming more severe. This is going to have a much more positive impact on their life, as well as help prevent any type of negative impact as well.
Diagnosing Alcohol Use Disorder
While this article is going to focus more on Alcohol Use Disorder, the questions that are used are the same for other substance abuse disorders and can be cross applied without any problems.
If you are experiencing a minimum of 2 symptoms listed below, it is an indication that you are suffering from Alcohol Use Disorder, also known as AUD.
AUD’s severity is defined by the following diagnoses:
Mild – There are 2–3 symptoms being displayed
Moderate – There are 4-5 symptoms being displayed
Severe – There are at least 6 or more symptoms being displayed
Chemical Dependency Questions For Evaluations
- Within the past year, have you gone through periods of time where you were drinking longer, or more than you had initially intended?
One of the biggest myths among those who have an alcohol or substance abuse problem is that they feel like they are able to control their use. For example, let’s say that there is an office worker who enjoys going out for drinks with their coworkers every Tuesday.
While they limit how much they drink to just 3 drinks three out of four Tuesdays, during the fourth Tuesday, they have 12 drinks instead of the normal 3 and are unable to make it back to work the next day because of the severe hangover they have.
In this situation, the problem is not being able to control how much they are drinking sometimes, but rather not being able to predict when they are going to lose control. It is this inability to predict when they will lose control that shows signs of having a problem.
- Within the past year, have you thought about or tried to limit or even stop drinking, but haven’t been able to?
When you are unable to stop something, it is an obvious sign that there is some type of addiction. If you have ever been to any kind of recovery circle, chances are that you’ve heard the saying, “Once you become a pickle you can’t go back to being a cucumber.” What this means is that after you have lost your ability to control the substances you use, that ability to control them is not going to come back.
Changing from wine to beer, or beer to spirits, and then to weed doesn’t matter. When you are unable to choose anymore, that is the issue that causes all the problems. If you want to stop your substance abuse and realize that you can’t do it alone, this is when you are going to be most likely to search for some type of treatment, or even deal with some kind of negative circumstances you’ve faced in your life, which has led to your usage.
- Do you spend most of your time doing activities that help you obtain alcohol, recover from the effects of alcohol, or use alcohol?
There was a Russian scientist named Pavlov who was able to discover that by training a dog, he was able to ring a bell and get that dog to salivate for food. He was able to show that when a dog would hear a bell, they would start producing saliva, even if there was no food present.
In regards to addiction, this is known as ‘ritualizing’. If you are addicted to something, chances are that you spend a lot if not most of your time planning, thinking, and even organizing your life so that you are able to get drunk or high.
Just as identified with Pavlov’s dog experiment, you too have stimuli that can be associated with the usage and anticipation of becoming high. This is why it eventually becomes more pleasant for you to spend time with people, things, and places that are associated with your high.
However, when you do finally get into treatment, one of the very first changes that you will have to make is the people, things, and places that you associate with usage. This is to break any type of pairing that is associated with you being drunk or high. If you are unable to make these changes, there is a higher chance that you will not be able to get sober.
- Within the past year, have you spent most of your time drinking, being sick, or trying to get over the aftereffects?
With addiction, it is not always just the actual consuming of the substances. In fact, it can even become a hijacking of your entire ‘reward system’ for your life. As you become more wrapped up in your addiction and getting high or drunk, your interest in being rewarded from other areas in your life will diminish. This includes your work life, hobbies, relationships, etc.
You will start to spend more and more time and make more lifestyle choices to help you get and stay high longer. This is ultimately why your spiritual, relational, and emotional life starts to deteriorate due to your addiction. The part of you that was enjoying life and growing from everyday triumphs is neglected and begins to deteriorate due to your addiction.
- Within the past year, has drinking, or becoming sick from drinking, interfered with your ability to take care of your family or home, caused you any trouble with your job, or any trouble with school?
If you were to ask anybody involved in the addiction treatment field, they will all tell you that they have never seen somebody seek out treatment because they woke up one day and wanted it.
Most who are entering treatment for their very first time do it not because they want to or feel that they have a problem, but rather there is some type of outside consequence that has occurred. For example, if your boss threatens to fire you from your job, or your wife threatens to leave you, these are some of the most common situations for entering treatment.
When it comes to addiction counseling, there is often a more confrontational approach as the addict is going to need help trying to tie their drinking problem with their life problems. Placing the blame on other people and blaming them for why you drink so much is very common among addicts. It is learning how to take responsibility for your own actions and choices that make up such a huge part of the early treatment and recovery process.
- Within the past year, have you been drinking even though it has been causing problems with your friends and family members?
Denial is a powerful weapon that can easily keep you from owning up to your problems. It is actually one of the most common defense mechanisms for alcoholics and addicts. There are lots of people out there who have multiple DUI’s and relationship or job loss that is directly related to their drinking. However, even though all of this is happening to them, they are persistent in their belief that they don’t have a problem and everything is fine.
Once those affected by your addiction are able to stop enabling your behaviors through supporting your lifestyle, it will often help to break through all of the denials and help you see the damage that your addiction is causing.
- Within the past year, have you reduced or quit activities that you deemed interesting or important, or gave you pleasure so that you could drink?
As previously mentioned, drinking will become an alcoholic’s greatest reward and everything else they are involved with will start to diminish. One type of exercise that can be done in recovery is to write your goodbye letter to your addiction. This is a great way to get started down the path of recovery.
Once you have overcome your addiction, learning how you can re-enter your life and start to get the regular rewards that you would get prior to your substance abuse is an extremely large learning curve. In fact, one of the reasons why the 12-step recovery program is so effective is due to other recovering people showing others exactly what they need to do to start participating in their life again, but without the use of any substances.
- Within the past year, have you gotten into any situations while or after drinking that have increased the potential for you to get hurt (like swimming, driving, walking in dangerous areas, using machinery, or even having unsafe sex)?
With alcohol, it is a depressant that is able to directly cross through your blood/brain barrier. It affects your ability to think clearly and impairs your judgment as well. Ultimately, this means that the part of your brain in charge of planning, judgment, and thinking is not going to be working properly.
After consuming alcohol, you are essentially putting this part of your brain, the ‘good judgment’ part, to sleep. This can cause you to make riskier decisions, as well as be more vulnerable.
- Within the past year, have you kept drinking even though it has made you feel anxious, depressed, or any other health problem, or even after having a memory blackout?
When it comes to addiction, it is definitely not a rational type of process. You may need to use alcohol in order to feel normal. For whatever reason, when you are addicted, you feel that you must use in order to be okay and that you will one day be able to achieve whatever your desired outcome for drinking is.
- Within the past year, have you had to drink more to get the same desired effect that you wanted, or noticed that your regular amount of drinks has had less effect on you than before?
When it comes to alcohol and substance abuse, your body builds up a tolerance over time. When this happens, it is your body stopping the production of the chemical your substance is providing. Your body will then depend upon alcohol or drugs, and over time, this requires more of the substance to reach the same effect as before.
For example, while you may have only needed 2 drinks to help you feel relaxed, after drinking every day, you now require 5 drinks to get to that same relaxed state.
- Within the past year, have you noticed that you would go through withdrawal symptoms such as shakiness, trouble sleeping, nausea, a racing heart, seizure, restlessness, or sweating when the effects of the alcohol were starting to wear off?
When your body becomes used to the daily consumption of alcohol, you will start to have symptoms of withdrawal once you stop drinking. This happens as your central nervous system becomes physically dependent upon alcohol to function, and once you stop drinking it, your body doesn’t have enough time to go back to its normal processes.
Alcohol addiction, as well as any type of substance abuse, is a serious problem. With the right help and the right setting, you will be able to overcome your drug and drinking use. All you have to do is reach out and ask for help.
“Beer”, Courtesy of Rawpixel, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Homeless”, Courtesy of Ben Hershey, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Drunk”, Courtesy of Jarmoluk,
Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Alcoholic”, Courtesy of Rebcenter-moscow, Pixabay.com, CC0 License
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