Not everyone who uses drugs develops an addiction. Some people may partake in drug use on an irregular or casual basis and be able to continue with normal living without cravings interfering. While almost every addiction starts with casual use, there is a distinction between recreational use and substance addiction. 

In this article we’ll answer the question that’s probably crossed your mind if you’re using drugs: What is considered heavy drug use? Plus, we’ll offer some common signs that drug use has gone too far and what to do about it.

What is considered heavy drug use?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines heavy drug use, or addiction, as a chronic condition in which a person’s body is rewired to crave a substance despite significant negative consequences. Addiction can interfere with work, school, relationships and daily living.

Addiction typically means that someone is unable to refrain from using a drug for a day and will struggle to govern his or her own thoughts about the drug. While a person may be aware of the harmful effects of the drug, he or she will continue to use.

What’s the difference between casual and heavy drug use?

Heavy drug use means that a person is unable to successfully complete tasks necessarily for daily life. Obtaining and/or using drugs may require lying and stealing from friends, leaving you unable to pay for rent or food.

Moreover, addiction implies that a person’s self-control has been hijacked by a drug. Different drugs act in different ways, but all change brain chemistry and neurotransmitter functioning — to the point where a person can’t say “no” to a substance.

Casual drug use generally means that a person has not developed an addiction to a drug, though the habit could still form in the future. When you’re using substances casually, you should be able to rationalize when, where and how to use a drug. 

Here’s a test to determine if you’ve developed a dependency on a drug: Avoid all substances for a month. If you’re able to refrain from substance use, you’re still in control. However, if cravings are so strong that you’re unable to commit to staying clean for a month, or even a week, it might be time to seek help before an addiction sets in and ruins your life. 

What are some signs that my drug use has gotten out of control?

If you’re unsure whether your drug use could be considered heavy drug use, use these signs to find some clarity.

Due to the physical effects of drugs, you might:

  • Struggle to maintain employment;
  • Miss commitments;
  • Operate on a strange schedule (staying up all night, sleeping all day);
  • Use the substance again to escape the pain of withdrawal;
  • Feel nauseous, achy or fatigued;
  • Experience migraines, shaking, sweating or other adverse reactions;
  • Endure effects days or weeks after your most recent use.

Due to the psychological effects of drugs, you might:

  • Have trouble remembering important details;
  • Have conflicts with family and friends frequently;
  • Struggle to maintain or find an intimate relationship;
  • Feel the need to hide your substance use;
  • Feel angry, irritable or depressed;
  • Have trouble feeling motivated to do tasks;
  • Follow erratic behavior patterns;
  • Struggle to maintain appropriate hygiene;
  • Participate in risky activities you wouldn’t normally do.

Due to the cost of drugs, you might:

  • Struggle to afford necessities (like housing, food, clothing, transportation);
  • Need to steal, borrow or lie to obtain money;
  • Find yourself skipping meals.

These and other substance use warning signs can give you insight into how a drug is impacting your life.

How do I get help for heavy drug use?

It can be a scary realization when you discover your recreational drug use has spiraled into addiction. While you surely felt in control when you first used a substance, you can feel like you’re no longer the master over your decisions, and that’s a hard pill to swallow.

Rest assured, you’re not the first person to feel this way. There are plenty of options available if you’re looking to seek help. When you’re ready to take back the power over your life, you need to get connected to professional services to help you overcome an addiction or nip it in the bud.

Real Recovery Clinical Services can help. At Real Recovery, you can find treatment programs designed to address your personal needs and substance of use. Schedule your appointment with us or call (855) 363-7325 to get started today.