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How to Know If You're an Addict

A psychologist breaks down the signs that it may be time to seek help.

When you're really in it, it can be hard to recognise that your drug or alcohol use has gotten out of control. Here, Todd E. Thiele, PhD, a professor in the department of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, identifies some possible signs that you've moved from casual user to addict—and that it’s time to seek treatment.

You had a shit semester (or three).

Addiction can take control of your life in sneaky ways: “You may gradually start losing interest in your old routine and stop meeting your obligations and going to class,” says Thiele. Sure, plenty of people party in college—but they also show up for their final exams.

You’re always bailing on your friends.

If you’re replacing group Bachelor binges with solo [insert vice] binges, that’s a bright red flag. As addiction gets worse, everyday activities become much less enjoyable, since “the brain’s reward system changes so that only drugs and alcohol are enough to produce pleasure,” says Thiele.

You’re a buzzkill.

Drugs and alcohol interfere with parts of the brain that keep your agitated and irritable emotions in check, meaning that even when you aren’t using, you’re kind of a bummer to be around... and can even be mean.

Your relationship is strained or combusts.

Because TBH, you’re more obsessed with getting high. You’re also more likely to do something impulsive that you'll likely regret later, like cheat. Drugs weaken the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which keeps you from doing what you know you shouldn’t.

You start lying or stealing (or both).

Drugs aren’t cheap. When you can no longer support your habit, you may start bumming money off friends and family—and never Venmo them back. Eventually, you’ll stop asking and may resort to just taking what you need so you can get your fix.