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How to Recognize an Addiction Problem

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Alarming statistics on substance abuse and the opioid epidemic are shared in the media nearly every day. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1 in 11 adults used some form of illicit drug in the last month. Understanding just how addiction begins and knowing the not-always-obvious warning signs and risk factors, can help you or a loved one avoid a problem or get the help you need.

How Does Addiction Start?

People begin using substances for different reasons. For some, it is purely for the pleasure of feeling good for a while. For others, it stems from observing use by people around them. For still others, substance abuse starts with legal medications to control pain or treat anxiety.

Regardless of the why, anyone can become addicted to substances that have the potential for dependency.

When to Seek Help: Warning Signs of Addiction

Most definitions describe addiction as an inability to do without a substance because of how it makes you feel. In reality, it is more much complicated. You may even face a problem without being completely aware.

Mental health professionals say it is important to contact your doctor or other respected provider or organization to seek help if you face any of the following warning signs of addiction:

  • Are taking a substance in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended
  • Have a strong, persistent desire for a substance or are unsuccessful in trying to cut down or control its use
  • Spend a great deal of time in activities necessary to obtain, use or recover from the substance’s effects
  • Avoid or fail to fulfill major obligations at work, school or home because of substance use
  • Continue to use a substance despite it causing social or interpersonal problems
  • Use substances in situations where it is physically hazardous
  • Notice a diminished effect when using the same amount of a substance
  • Experience withdrawal

Who is at Risk for Addiction?

It is possible for anyone to become addicted to a substance. However, people with the following risk factors are more likely to develop problems with addiction:

  • A history of substance abuse
  • Mental illness like anxiety and depression
  • Under 40 years of age
  • Taking prescriptions drugs for pain

What Do I Do if I Am Concerned About Addiction?

First, know that addiction is a very common problem and there are many resources available for help. Then, take action by asking for that help.

  • Seek help through a physician or psychiatrist
  • Attend a quit program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous that allows you to talk to others who are going through similar experiences. Family members can benefit from being part of groups like Al-Anon.
  • Reach out through religious organizations, family or community organizations
author name

Jonathan T. Kinley, DO

Jonathan T. Kinley, DO, is a physician with Family Medicine Quentin. Dr. Kinley has special expertise in addiction medicine.

Education: Undergraduate–Shippensburg University; Medical School–Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine; Residency–Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center.

Schedule an Appointment Call: 717-675-1780

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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