Clinical Signs of Addiction
A medication is considered misused whenever a person indiscriminately uses the medication (like when it is someone else’s). A medication becomes abused when a person continually self-medicates resulting in a physical and/or psychological dependence on the drug. There are some clinical signs that can help a therapist, parent, or self, evaluate if you experience three or more of the following characteristics within six months of using a pharmaceutical:
Tolerance – Tolerance is when larger and larger doses of a medication are required to produce the desired effect or physical reprieve. Tolerance is not the same as addiction. It is important to distinguish that a patient can develop a tolerance without developing an addiction. In these cases, it is safe to increase the doses to achieve the physiological response. But there is a plan in place to discontinue the medication when treatment is completed.
Withdrawals – This is what happens when a medication is no longer being taken. It is the effects one feels when the medication is being tapered and eliminated. If therapists properly manage treatment by gradually decreasing the frequency and amounts of doses, these withdrawals can be minimal.
Increased Usage – A person who is an addict has a tendency to increase the doses of their drug of choice regularly. This is often required to achieve the same results as when they began taking the medication or in an attempt to increase the benefits of the drug (such as a higher state of euphoria).
Uncontrollable Use – The main definition of an addict is “unable to control” the urge to self-medicate or remove themselves from reality. There is a desperation present to meet these cravings as quickly as possible.
Planning – A person addicted to prescription medications, or any kind of substance, spends a lot of time to acquire the drug, take the drug, and recover from the drug. It becomes a cycle, and an addict becomes obsessed with and attached to fulfilling the cycle. This attachment often times interferes with social skills including interpersonal relationships, and work. Everything takes a back seat to the cycle.
Addiction Progresses – An addict continues to self-medicate regardless of consequences. Individuals who are addicted to drugs will begin to be late for work or gradually stop showing up at all. Some lose families, houses, relationships, and everything else in their lives before they realize they have a problem.
It is interesting to examine what drives an addict to abuse. We will be looking at that tomorrow.