7 Ways Addiction is Diagnosed


Addiction is a very complex and sophisticated disease. Kristina Wandzilak, a professional interventionist featured in the TLC show "Addicted," puts it like this, "Addiction is a combination of genetic, biochemical, social, environmental and psychological events in a person's life that collide to create and manifest an addiction. And it's especially tricky to identify, because it rarely looks the same in any two people."

There's no exact equation to figure out how someone becomes an addict. But here are seven indicators that your loved one may be struggling with addiction. If three of the seven apply, he or she can be diagnosed as chemically dependent.


Building up a tolerance for alcohol or drugs is a lot like training for a marathon. The more frequently you run, the longer you can go before you have to stop. And the more frequently you drink, the more you can consume before you fall over. Most people try not to go that far when drinking, but you should always keep a mental note of your consumption. If you normally have two glasses of wine and get a nice buzz, then a month later find out that you need a bottle to achieve the same feeling, you may want to take a closer look at your drinking habits.

Did You Know?

A glass of red wine a day is thought to keep the doctor away, but too much will hurt your heart, as well as other highly functioning organs. The recommended daily serving for women is one glass and no more than two glasses for men.


Each chemical substance has a set of characteristic withdrawal symptoms that vary per drug. Alcohol withdrawal is often marked by shakiness and anxiety, and cocaine withdrawal usually leaves you feeling depressed and tired. Withdrawal from opiate pills will give you a headache and stomach cramps. These withdrawal symptoms occur from repeated use and aren't to be confused with a hangover from a big night out. If you're experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, or you're using more of the same substance to avoid withdrawal, this is a sign of addiction.

You Can't Stop

Most addicts can't say no to their substance of choice, especially once it's in their system. A social drinker with a good relationship with alcohol can go out and have one glass of wine, then stop. Wandzilak explains that a sign of addiction is that you can no longer predict with 100 percent accuracy when you'll be able to stop drinking or using your drug of choice once you've started.

Did You Know?

Addicts who go through rehab have a better chance of long-term sobriety if they stay in a program for three months or longer.

Repeated Attempts to Control the Abuse

"I can quit anytime I want" is a phrase that been used so frequently that it's almost become a cliché. But it's true. Addicts who are aware that there's a problem will try on their own to control their use or try to stop. But rarely is this possible once an addiction has set in. To truly get a grip on the abuse, and addict must get help from others.

Loves Their Drug of Choice More

Wandzilak explains that addiction is an attachment disorder, where the addict pushes back from human attachments and forms a bond with their chemical of choice. This results in noticeable preoccupation with the chemical and the addict's life starts to revolve around the chase of getting it, where and when to use it and nursing withdrawal symptoms once they run out.

Did You Know?

Detox symptoms range from barely noticeable to severe based on a number of variables. These include the kind of drug, and how much and how often it was consumed.

Abandons Responsibility

As a person's addiction gets larger, his or her life gets smaller. This works in tandem with indicator No. 3 -- leisure time that would have been spent with friends or pursuing a hobby is now spent obtaining or using alcohol or drugs. Problems in the workplace are likely to arise if drug use is impacting performance on the job. All of this makes a noticeable impact on a person's quality of life.

Ignores the Consequences

Once the cat is out of the bag and your loved one has been confronted about his or her excessive alcohol or drug use, he or she may continue to do it anyway. Wandzilak describes this as the hallmark to addiction. Areas of consequence that are looked at are family, social, occupational, health, legal and spiritual. If any or all of these are being impacted by the use of drugs or alcohol, it may be time to get help.

Did You Know?

The 12-step program is the one most frequently used for helping addicts stay sober, but if the 12 tenets don't fit in with your beliefs or lifestyle, there are other programs out there for you.