Medically Reviewed

Top Signs You May Need Rehab for Substance Misuse

4 min read · 5 sections
If your substance use feels like it’s gotten out of your control, you might ask yourself, “Do I need treatment?”

Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease characterized by compulsive substance use despite the negative consequences. If this describes your behavior or that of a loved one, you may benefit from understanding and recognizing the signs that indicate it’s time to seek professional help.1
What you will learn:
How to know if you need rehab
The ways substance misuse can impact your physical health, emotional well-being, and other areas of your life
How to seek help

Do I Need Treatment for Addiction?

Not every person who uses alcohol or drugs develops an addiction. And substance use, misuse, and a substance use disorder are actually different.2

Substance use refers to any form of drug or alcohol use.

Substance misuse describes improper or unhealthy use of any substance, including drugs and alcohol. This may mean taking a prescription drug in a manner other than the way it was prescribed or taking someone else’s medication. Misuse also encompasses using drugs or alcohol to alleviate stress or to get high.

Substance use disorder, the diagnostic term for addiction, refers to the chronic, continued use of a substance despite the negative implications it has on all aspects of a person’s life. Generally, individuals with substance use disorders display a combination of cognitive, behavioral, and physiological symptoms.3

Only a doctor or mental health professional can diagnose a substance use disorder. Clinicians rely on criteria outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) to provide a diagnosis of substance use disorder and assess the severity of the condition.2

Substance Use Disorder Criteria

It can be helpful, however, to know the criteria so that you have a better understanding of the signs of drug or alcohol addiction. The diagnostic criteria for a substance use disorder include:3

  • Using a substance in larger amounts or for a longer time than originally intended.
  • Expressing a desire to but being unable to cut down or stop using the substance.
  • Spending a great deal of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of the substance.
  • Experiencing intense urges or cravings to use the substance.
  • Failing to fulfil obligations at home, work, or school due to substance use.
  • Continuing to use the substance though it causes or worsens social or interpersonal problems.
  • Giving up social, recreational, or occupational activities due to substance use and withdrawing from family activities and hobbies in order to use the substance.
  • Using the substance in dangerous situations (such as while driving a car or operating machinery).
  • Continuing to use the substance despite the knowledge that it has likely caused or worsened a physical or psychological condition.
  • Tolerance, which is the need to use a higher amount of the substance in order to produce the same desired effects, or when using the same amount of the substance no longer produces the desired effect.
  • Experiencing unpleasant or uncomfortable symptoms when substance use stops or is drastically reduced. This is known as withdrawal.

The severity of a substance use disorder can range from mild to severe, with addiction often referring to the more severe end of the spectrum. While not all criteria need to be met for a diagnosis to be made, the more criteria that are met indicate a more severe disorder. However, meeting 2 of the above criteria in a 12-month period constitutes a mild substance use disorder and may be a sign that it’s time to seek treatment for addiction.4

Substance Use Has Impacted Your Health

Even having an understanding of the diagnostic criteria, it can be difficult to recognize the symptoms of addiction in yourself—or even a loved one.

Depending on the substance used and the method of administration, drug and alcohol misuse and addiction can lead to a number of short- and long-term negative health consequences, including:5-10

  • An increased risk of injuries, including falls, burns, drowning, and motor vehicle accidents.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence, having unprotected sex, or sharing needles (if injecting drugs).
  • A higher chance of developing endocarditis, an infection of the heart and valves, or cellulitis, a skin infection—both can occur from exposure to bacteria from injecting drugs.
  • An increased risk of lung problems (e.g., asthma, bronchitis, and lung disease) from smoking substances such as cocaine or marijuana.
  • A greater likelihood of developing many cancers.
  • Cardiovascular events, including heart disease and stroke.
  • Liver disease.
  • Cognitive impairments, including problems with attention, inhibition and regulation, memory, and decision-making.
  • An increased risk of overdose, which can be fatal.

Substance Use Has Impacted Your Thoughts, Emotions, and Behaviors

Just as chronic substance misuse can affect your health, it can also impact your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. In fact, substance use and mental health disorders sometimes occur together.11 In some instances, a mental health condition—such as anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia—may precede addiction. Drug use may trigger or worsen these mental health conditions. Some individuals may turn to substance use in an effort to alleviate psychiatric symptoms associated with certain mental health issues, like depression or anxiety. However, using drugs or alcohol in this manner may actually worsen both the mental health condition and the substance use.12

Different substances may impact mental health in different ways.7 According to the American Psychological Association, sedating drugs (such as benzodiazepines and alcohol) may result in significant depressive disorders during intoxication, and people may suffer from anxiety during withdrawal from these substances.3 Stimulating substances, like amphetamines and cocaine, may lead to substance-induced psychotic disorders and substance-induced anxiety disorders and also to the development of substance-induced major depressive episodes during withdrawal from stimulants in some individuals.3

Some of the more common impacts substances can have on thoughts and behaviors include:5,9,11

  • An increased risk of depression or anxiety.
  • Sudden mood swings, anger outbursts, or irritability.
  • Unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness.
  • Confusion and insomnia.
  • Paranoid thoughts or fear for no reason.
  • Other personality changes.

Substance Use Has Impacted Other Areas of Your Life

Addiction can affect all areas of a person’s life.5 Individuals who have a substance use disorder have a hard time controlling their need to use drugs or alcohol even knowing that it’s negatively impacting their life in multiple ways, which may include:3,5,11,13

  • Poor performance at work or school.
  • Problems at work, such as absenteeism or accidents on the job, or unemployment.
  • Increased risk of criminality and legal problems related to substance use.
  • Withdrawing from friends or sudden changes in friends, social activities, and hobbies.
  • Family problems, including increased arguments or fights.
  • Relationship problems.

Treatment Options and Outlook

Why do people go to rehab? What makes them finally decide that they need professional treatment? It depends. For some, the recognition of all of the negative consequences in their life that stem from substance use motivates them to seek help for addiction.14 For others, treatment may be mandated by a court in lieu of jail time for a substance-related legal issue.15

Regardless of the reasons, professional substance use treatment should be sought from a reputable, licensed-and-accredited treatment facility.

Prior to beginning treatment, you will receive a comprehensive clinical assessment to determine your specific needs and the level of care best suited for you.16 This evaluation takes into account your medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal issues, as well as your age, gender, ethnicity, and cultural background—all to inform your customized treatment plan.16

Professional addiction treatment is structured and offers various settings that range in intensities to align with your recovery needs. Depending on the substance or substances you were using, medically managed detoxification may be where you begin rehab. Detox allows your body to rid itself of the substance safely and withdraw from drugs or alcohol as comfortably as possible until you become medically stable.17

Detox is typically the first step in a more comprehensive treatment plan and may be followed by inpatient rehab and/or outpatient care, depending on your specific situation. Additionally, most treatment programs also involve aftercare, which is a form of ongoing care that supports your recovery once you’ve completed a formal treatment program.17

How long you spend in rehab depends on a number of factors, including how much and how long you misused substances as well as co-occurring mental health conditions, but research shows that the best treatment outcomes occur when you remain in treatment for the entire duration.17

Although addiction is a chronic disease, you can recover from it.17 With evidence-based treatment and aftercare, you can maintain a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle and achieve a healthier and more productive functioning in all areas of your life.17

If any of this resonated with you, or if you know that you or a loved one struggle with substance misuse or addiction, don’t wait. Reach out to us here at American Addiction Centers (AAC) by calling . Talk to one of our compassionate admissions navigators, who can listen to your concerns, answer your questions, explain your options, and verify your insurance (you can also fill out the form below). Let AAC provide you with the resources and support you need to begin your recovery journey and encourage you along every step of the way.

Need more info?
American Addiction Centers Photo
Take the first step towards recovery.
American Addiction Centers Photo
Make the process simple. Ensure your benefits cover treatment.
American Addiction Centers Photo
Explore American Addiction Centers locations nationwide.
View Our Treatment Centers