Frequently Asked Questions About Addiction

What is Addiction?
Addiction to drugs and alcohol is a disease. While addiction is treatable, it is possible to relapse and return to using drugs or alcohol, even after years of sobriety. Over time, the disease of addiction causes changes in a person’s body, mind and behavior. Eventually, a person is unable to control their use of the drug or alcohol, despite the harm caused by the use of these substances. Addiction is a “chronic” disease, which means it is never “cured”. Addiction can reappear over the course of an individual’s life.

mental-healthIs Addiction Physical or Mental?
Addiction to drugs or alcohol may be physical, psychological, or both. Physical changes include increased tolerance of the substance, meaning the individual needs more to produce the same effect. Withdrawal from a drug or alcohol also causes physical symptoms. Psychological changes include feeling dependent on the substance, or “needing” it to mask bad feelings and emotions with good ones.

What is a “blackout”?
A blackout is a type of amnesia or memory loss in which a person cannot remember what they did or said. Some people may not remember how they returned home. Blackouts begin in the early stage of alcoholism and are different from “passing out.”

What is “tolerance”?
Tolerance means a person needs more of the drug or alcohol to get “high” or achieve the same feeling.

What is “withdrawal”?
Withdrawal is the physical symptom(s) experienced when alcohol or drugs are not used. These can include nausea, sweating and shakiness. Withdrawal from some drugs may require medical attention.

How do I know if I am addicted?

Ask the CAGE questions:
C = Have you ever felt the need to Cut down on your drinking or drug use?
A = Have you ever felt Annoyed by people criticizing your drinking or drug use?
G = Have you ever felt Guilty about your drinking or drug use?
E = Have you ever had a drink or used a drug early in the morning to calm your nerves or stop a hangover? (Eye-opener)

If you answered “yes” to one or more of the questions above, you should see a professional for a full assessment. Answering “yes” to one or two questions may indicate alcohol or drug related problems. Answering “yes” to three or four questions may indicate alcohol or drug dependence.


Ask the UNCOPE questions:
U = Have you continued to Use alcohol or drugs longer than you intended, or have you spent more time drinking or using the drug than you intended?
N = Have you ever Neglected some of your usual responsibilities because of alcohol or drug use?
C = Have you ever wanted to stop using alcohol or drugs but couldn’t Cut down?
O = Has a family member, friend, or other ever told you that they Objected to your alcohol or drug use?
P = Have you ever found yourself Preoccupied with wanting to use alcohol or drugs, or have you frequently found yourself thinking about a drink or getting high?
E = Have you ever used alcohol or drugs to relieve Emotional discomfort such as sadness, anger or boredom?

Answering “yes” to two or more questions may indicate a need for further assessment by a substance abuse counselor or medical doctor.