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Frequently Asked Questions About Rehab

Is My Addiction Bad Enough?

Although some people may think their addiction isn't bad enough for treatment, a substance use disorder (SUD) can be treated at any stage.

Is My Addiction Bad Enough? 

Admitting and accepting help is often the first step in treating an addiction. For some, this step can also be the most difficult part of the process. Substance abuse changes the way the brain functions which can cloud decision making and cause denial about the severity of one’s addiction. This can cause many to question if their addiction is bad enough for treatment. Some may believe that their substance use is temporary or that they can easily stop whenever they want to. Excuses for substance use are frequently made to others or to themselves to downplay or minimize the extent of their addiction and their need for treatment. 

The stigma associated with addiction does not make it any easier for individuals to ask for help. It is not uncommon for individuals to minimize their dependence on substances by comparing their situation to others. This logic allows people to think, “My addition is not as bad as theirs,” which can be used to justify putting off treatment. By evaluating addiction’s warning signs, progressive nature, and long-term effects, one can attempt to gauge if their addiction is “bad enough” for treatment.

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Signs That An Addiction Is Bad Enough 

An addiction affects a person’s basic brain functions and behaviors. Changes to the brain can interfere with one’s experience with normal pleasures, ability to control stress, and information retention. A dependency on either illegal or legal substances can lead to a lack of control. Substance use can begin with experimentation of recreational drugs or an exposure to an addictive prescription medication. When the brain adapts to the imbalance created by the introduction of a substance, a higher amount is needed to achieve the same effect and to prevent withdrawal symptoms to occur when not using. It is important that those trying to determine if their addiction is bad enough for treatment be open and honest when self-evaluating. Warning signs of a substance use disorder (SUD) include: 

  • Needing larger amounts of a substance to achieve the same effect.
  • Wanting to stop drug use but is unable to.  
  • Spending a lot of time using and recovering from substance use. 
  • Craving specific drugs. 
  • Failed attempts to cease use.
  • Struggling to manage responsibilities because of substance use. 
  • Continuing to use the substance even when relationships, work, or school suffer.
  • Spending money on the substance, when one cannot afford to. 
  • Out of character behavioral changes. 
  • Buying or using a substance regardless of the danger they are put in.  
  • Having withdrawal symptoms when not using. 
  • Being secretive about substance use.  

Any combination of these signs can indicate that an individual is struggling with an addiction and may need treatment. 

It can also be helpful to understand the difference between a habit and an addiction. Habits are regular behaviors that are part of one’s routine, such as brushing teeth in the morning. An addiction is an intense focus on a substance which can cause a person to make sacrifices in other areas of their life in order to keep using. The biggest distinction between a habit and an addiction is the concept of choice. With habit-forming behaviors, choice is still possible unlike an addiction. For highly addictive substances, like Heroin, even using it once can lead to an addiction. 

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The Progressive Nature Of Addiction 

Addiction is a progressive disorder which means if left untreated, it will not go away on its own and outcomes will only get worse. It can be much more difficult to treat an addition in its late stages. Consequences of substance abuse can be fatal. In 2020, there were more than 93,000 overdose deaths in the US. While an individual believes that their addiction isn’t bad enough to seek treatment, it is likely that without any help, their addiction will continue to progress. 

Understanding the long-term consequences of prolonged drug use can be helpful in deciding if one’s addiction is bad enough to seek treatment. Substance use can come  with a wide range of long-lasting, harmful consequences. Often the specifics vary based on the substance, how long it has been used, and individual health. In general, addiction can cause heart disease, lung disease, cancer, mental illness, HIV/AIDS, and hepatitis. An increased sense of impulsivity tends to occur as well which can cause a higher risk for trauma, violence, and injury. These consequences can affect more than just the user. Here are how a few common addictive substances can affect users long term: 

  • Alcohol: liver disease, cancer, heart issues, anxiety, depression, and memory loss.
  • Marijuana: impairments to memory and learning functions, breathing problems, increased risk for heart attack. 
  • Cocaine: irritability, restlessness, paranoia, issues with the nose, damage to lungs, HIV, Hepatitis C, risk for stroke, and seizure. 
  • Heroin: deterioration to the brain’s white matter, decreased decision making skills, inability to control impulses.

Rock Bottom Is Not An Indicator 

It is commonly believed that a person’s addiction is not bad enough for treatment until they have “hit rock bottom.” This misconception perpetuates the idea that a person’s lowest point is the only driving force behind seeking treatment. This can be true for some but because rock bottom looks different for everyone, it should not be used as an across-the-board indicator of need for treatment. 

Even though rock bottom can be motivation for some, waiting to be at an all-time-low is not recommended for those struggling with an addiction. Things do not have to get worse before they get better. It is important to remember that treating a SUD early in the addiction is easier than later on. Those struggling with a SUD may use the concept of rock bottom as an excuse to delay treatment which can cause more harmful consequences in the long run. Consequences, such as long-term and irreversible health problems, deterioration of relationships, loss of life, debt, and legal consequences are more likely to occur the longer a person goes without treatment. 

Determining If An Addiction Is Bad Enough For Treatment

There is no fool-proof way to determine if a person’s addiction is bad enough for treatment. The only way to know if an addiction is bad enough for treatment is by evaluating the control a substance has on an individual’s life. A person should be willing to admit their struggles with substance use and be able to ask for the help needed to change it. Waiting until the last stages of an addiction can make treatment much more difficult because there have been lasting changes made to the brain. It can also be dangerous to wait for treatment as some long-term effects are irreversible. Fatal outcomes can be prevented at any stage of an addiction. It is not necessary to wait to seek help until one feels their addiction is bad enough. There is always an opportunity for hope and change. 

If you find yourself asking “is my addiction bad enough?” you may already know the answer to your question. For more information on substance use disorders and treatment options, contact a treatment provider today to have a confidential conversation about your options. 

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