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Can You Still Be an Addict if You Take Days or Weeks Off?

We tend to think of addiction as nonstop use. When one dose wears off, you are ready for the next. Although that does characterize some addictions, it’s not necessarily the case. Different people have different patterns of use. It also depends to some extent on the drug. More importantly, addiction lies in your relationship to the drug and not necessarily how frequently you use it.

Although addiction often does have a component of physical dependence, it doesn’t always, and physical dependence is not the same as addiction. For example, porn and gambling are addictive but neither causes physical dependence–although they can cause withdrawal. The main characteristics of addiction have to do with how you think about the drug or behavior.

The signs of addiction include wanting to stop and being unable to, developing a tolerance to the substance and needing more, prioritizing using over more important things like school or work, canceling plans with friends or family to use, spending way too much money on drugs or alcohol, lying about using, secretive or unethical behavior, and deteriorating relationships. If your drinking or drug use meets any of those criteria, it’s likely an addiction, even if you don’t do it constantly.

For some drugs, addiction does coincide with nearly constant use. Drugs like opioids and benzodiazepines have severe withdrawal, and if you are in the habit of taking them frequently, quitting abruptly is a bad idea. If you are addicted to drugs like these, you are less likely to have long gaps between uses.

It is possible though. For example, if you take Xanax for anxiety, you might not take it consistently enough to develop a physical dependence, but you might feel like you can’t handle certain situations without it. Worse, the number of situations you can’t handle without it may gradually increase. You may take it automatically in response to stress or you may find yourself thinking about using it or looking forward to using it. These are signs of addiction.

Alcohol is an especially tricky drug in this regard. Quite often, the problem people have with alcohol is not that they need to drink every day, but when they start drinking they can’t stop. They may have a pattern of going on a bender, waking up feeling terrible, deciding never to do that again, not drinking for a while, then starting all over in a few days, weeks, or months. It may not be regular use, but it’s clearly a problem. What’s more, it will likely lead to more regular use later on, especially when they reach the point where they have to drink to get back to normal.

Not everyone becomes addicted in the same way. Drinking or drug use can become dangerous long before it becomes constant. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.