Are You Almost Addicted? Five Ways to Kick The Problem
Finding a support group, eliminating triggers, and making positive changes can all help end substance abuse.
If you had a drug or alcohol problem, you’d know it—right? Not necessarily, according to Dr. Wesley Boyd, a psychiatrist at Boston Children’s Hospital and a faculty member at Harvard Medical School who wrote the book Almost Addicted: Is My (or My Loved One’s) Drug Use a Problem?, part of the same series as Almost a Psychopath, which we covered last year.
In his book, Boyd explores the idea that many people think they’re using substances normally but are at a critical crossroads: either slide into full-blown addiction, or turning their lives around. Warning signs for almost addiction include using substances frequently enough to be abnormal, but not quite enough to fit the medical definition of addiction; substance use causing negative consequences for the user or loved ones; and being in danger of progressing into substance dependence or abuse. “Even if you don’t have a full-blown addiction and you haven’t had major difficulties in your life because of substance abuse, your drug use can still negatively impact your life,” Boyd says about the book. “You can still have a ‘drug problem.’ Indeed, I believe that there is a huge swath of people out there who are ‘almost addicted.’”
So if addiction or almost addiction is something you’ve struggled with, check out Boyd’s five tips for kicking the habit for good.
1. Do a self-assesment.
The first step to beating addiction, Boyd says, is determining if you’re truly addicted in the first place. “Step one is to take an honest appraisal of your relationship to the drug,” he says. “Meaning, ask yourself as honestly as possible and as bluntly as possible how you use the drug, when you use the drug, and whether it’s causing problems in your life as a result of it.”
2. Identify and eliminate triggers.
Most substance users do so in a certain situation or for certain reasons, so identifying what yours are is key, Boyd explains. Common triggers include things like anxiety, boredom, or certain types of social situations, and it’s up to the individual to find ways to avoid those. “Virtually anything to address something like anxiety other than using drugs or drinking would be better than drugs or drinking,” Boyd says.
3. Alter your other behaviors.
“Bad habits tend to run in pairs or run together,” Boyd says. “So if there are other things you’re doing that are bad for your health such as overeating or smoking cigarettes or using other drugs, giving up or trying to reign in those other behaviors is correlated statistically with getting better control over your drug use.” Boyd adds that good eating and exercising habits can also help kick addiction.
4. Make positive changes.
Boyd says doing things like setting a concrete quit date, finding positive things to do other than drugs, seeking professional help, and joining support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are all good ways to take control of your habits. He also points out that complete sobriety isn’t necessary for groups like AA and NA. “In fact, the sole requirements for going to those meetings is that you have the desire to stop using the substance,” he says.
5. Surround yourself with a good support group.
Many adolescents, in particular, benefit from finding friend groups that do not use substances, Boyd says. “It is the norm, not the exception, that if there are adolescents who are going to get clean, their friend group changes,” he explains. Perhaps more important, though, is being sure to find people who support you in your mission regardless of their own habits. “Whether they are or aren’t [clean and sober], it’s just a lot easier when you’ve got people backing you,” Boyd says.