Do You Have an Addiction?

If you think you or someone you love may be experiencing an addiction or are seeking treatment in Calgary for an alcohol use disorder or drug use disorder, we can help. The following page provides some general information about alcohol and drug use disorders to help you get started, but please feel free to contact us for further information at the phone number above if you have questions or would like to book an appointment.

How Can I Know if My Alcohol or Drug Use is a Problem?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, most often referred to as the DSM-V or DSM-5, outlines the criteria that is currently used to diagnose a substance use disorder. There are eleven criteria. You may not meet all of them, but the more of them that are descriptive of your using or drinking patterns, the more severe is the problem you are experiencing with the use of that substance.

The eleven criteria are listed below in bold. I've included additional questions that you might ask yourself or reflect on to determine the extent to which you meet each criteria. These are, by no means, an exhaustive list of questions but they can give you an idea of what each criteria is looking at.

  1. The substance (i.e. alcohol or drug) is often taken in larger amounts or over longer periods of time than was intended. (Do you start out thinking you'll just have a couple drinks, and then end up consuming much more than that? Do you find that you have difficulty stopping after a certain number of drinks? Are there times when stopping by at the pub for what you said would only be an hour after work turns into coming home many hours later?)

  2. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control the substance use. (Have you made promises to yourself or to others to stop drinking or using and then broken those promises? How many times? Have you ever decided to stop drinking intentionally for a period of time because you thought it would be good for you or to prove that you could? How often have you done that? Have you been thinking that you should cut down on your drinking?)

  3. A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects. (How much time are you spending at the pub or at the bar? How many hours are you spending consuming alcohol or using the drug? Are family members complaining about how much time you spend drinking or using drugs or not being involved with the family because you were using? How long do you feel ill, irritable, or moody and unable to engage fully in your activities afterward?)

  4. Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the substance. (Do you experience a strong desire, at times, to drink alcohol or use the substance? Does it occupy your thoughts for periods of time? Do certain places, people, sights, times of day, or mood states trigger a powerful desire to use the substance? Does the craving feel all-consuming at times?)

  5. Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home. (Have you called in sick at work because you were hungover or using? How many times? Have you been late for family functions or missed altogether family activities that you were expected to attend because you were drinking or using? Has that happened often? Have you neglected household chores that needed to be done in favor of using or because you were not feeling good after using? How often has that happened?)

  6. Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of the substance. (Are you and your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend arguing often about your drinking? Are your family members concerned about your drinking? Have you lost friends because of your drinking or using? Are your friends put off by your actions when you are drinking?)

  7. Giving up important social, occupational or recreational activities because of substance use. (Have you avoided social functions that you've been invited to attend because they were not serving alcohol? Have you disengaged from your family or from extracurricular activities because you were using or drinking? Do you have hobbies and interests that you don't do anymore because of your drinking or use of substances?)

  8. Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous to use. (Have you driven while impaired? How many times? Do you work in a safety sensitive occupation, using heavy equipment, firearms, construction tools, or a motor vehicle? Have you been impaired while engaging in such activities, including not just the impairment caused by intoxication, but also the secondary impairment features -- feeling ill, poor judgment and concentration, foggy thinking, etc. -- that follow heavy use, and that are due to the withdrawal effects from using, or fatigue and lack of sleep from being up all night, etc.? Has this happened more than once? Have you ever been charged with a DUI? It is statistically improbable to be charged with a DUI without a significant history of driving while under the influence; in fact, typically a person has driven while impaired 75+ times before they are charged with a DUI.)

  9. Substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the substance. (Have you continued drinking even though your doctor has advised you to stop because of a health concern? Have you ever been told you have liver trouble? Have you ever been hospitalized because of your drinking or using? Have you continued to drink even then?)

  10. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:  a) a need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect, or b) a markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.

  11. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:  a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance, or b) the substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

If you meet two or three of these criteria, that would indicate a mild use disorder; four or five indicate a moderate use disorder and six or more indicate a severe use disorder.

The preceding list of criteria and related questions is not intended to provide you with a diagnosis, only to offer education and increased awareness. A diagnosis is arrived at through a comprehensive assessment with an addictions professional who can explore your personal, medical, family and work histories, as well as your current mental health status, relationship quality, and substance use patterns. All of the information gleaned from such an assessment is used together to determine a diagnosis.

Our hope in providing this information, however, is that it helps you gain a better understanding of what an addiction looks like and how it manifests in daily life, so that you can make more informed decisions regarding your well-being.

If you are answering yes to some or most of these types of questions, there is a strong likelihood that you are experiencing a problem with the use of your substance of choice. We strongly recommend that you consult with a health professional, psychologist or other therapist who is trained in the field of addictions assessment and treatment, and who can provide further guidance and recommendations as to what steps you can take to address these issues in a meaningful way.

Recommended Reading

Being Sober: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting To, Getting Through, and Living in Recovery

by Harry Haroutunian

An excellent resource on understanding treatment of substance addiction. I especially like the chapter on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. In  this chapter, the author describes each Step in detail, including the principles and potential pitfalls of each step, as well as his own simplified version of the meaning of each step. Dr. Haroutunian rewords Step One, for example, "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol -- that our lives had become unmanageable" to "There is a power that wants to kill me." Step Two, "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity," becomes "There is a Power that wants me to live."  Includes a chapter on the high functioning addict, what to expect in recovery, a discussion on abstinence vs. harm reduction, a discussion of the distinction between spirituality and religiosity, a description of AA meetings, and more. A very good introduction to the world of addiction recovery.

In Canada? Click here to order from instead

Beyond the Influence: Understanding and Defeating Alcoholism

by Katherine Ketcham and William F. Asbury

Much of what this book is about could be described by the phrase found on the back cover:  "Alcoholism is a disease. It's time we started treating it like one." In the first half of this book, the authors describe the science behind the neurobiology of alcohol addiction, how alcohol affects the brain and the body, along with a comprehensive description of the early, middle and late phases of alcoholism. The second half of the book includes chapters on inpatient treatment, relapse prevention, counselling for co-morbid issues, spirituality and nutrition. It's a bit dated now, but its still very informative and one I would recommend. The author, Katherine Ketchum is also author of Under the Influence, considered a classic in the field.

Canadian Flag Graphic
In Canada? Click here to order from instead

Where Can I Get More Information?

The following links lead to online resources that may help further:

Alcoholics Anonymous
Official site of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc..

What its Like to Attend Your First Meeting
Here is an excellent online article that addresses one of the most common psychological barriers to attending AA: anxiety about attending your first meeting. This article, produced by professionals at Futures Palm Beach, can help you feel better prepared with an understanding of what to expect at your first and subsequent meeting(s) and helps to dispel some of the common myths about attending AA.

Evolution Health Care for Everyone
An online support group providing help to those who are seeking to quit or cut down on their drinking. One helpful resource on this site is an online questionnaire you can use to evaluate your drinking. This is the same one used by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (see below). I prefer the final report format on this site, however, as it provides a little more information. An excellent resource with which to evaluate your drinking.

   Alcohol Help Center 2.0 Links and Resources
   Check Your Drinking Assessment Online Questionnaire

American Society of Addiction Medicine
An excellent educational resource, information rich, written in a strong academic style, outlining what addiction is, including the characteristics, neurobiology and genetic components of addiction. The American Society of Addiction Medicine and its Canadian counterpart the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine both offer comprehensive online information (see the "Research and Treatment" menu of the navigation bar at to both addiction professionals and the public.

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Canada's leading addiction and mental health teaching hospital.

   CAMH Articles and Resources
   Information about Drug and Alcohol Addiction
   Evaluate Your Drinking
   Information about Alcohol, Other Drugs, and Driving
   Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines
   Dealing with Drinking: How to Quit or Cut Down

Addiction Center
This is another excellent site filled with articles, resources, and information on addiction. It is also a good site to find out about treatment centers available near you.

Recovery Village
The Recovery Village provides comprehensive alcohol and drug rehab programs. Their website, here, is a wealth of information on alcohol and drug addiction and treatment, inpatient and outpatient programs, co-occurring disorders, and so much more. 

To Book an Appointment

Just call us (403) 255-8577 or use our easy online scheduler here

If you have any questions or would like to contact us by email, you can complete a brief confidential contact form here. Once you submit the contact form, a Cobb & Associates intake staff member will respond as soon as possible.

The Calgary Couples Counselling Centre (a subsidiary of Cobb & Associates Inc.) is located in southeast Calgary (near Leons and Trail Appliances on 11th Street SE). Please click here for our full address and a map to our location. We are currently accepting new clients and warmly welcome self-referrals and referrals from physicians and other professionals.

We appreciate your interest in our services and hope this information has been helpful to you. Please do not hesitate to call if you have any questions.

Home | Return to Counselling Services

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.

External Content and Diagnosis Disclaimer: Cobb & Associates Inc. gives no direct or implied assurance that the content on an any external websites listed on this page is 100% accurate or credible. This determination must be made by individual consumers of online information. In addition, the information on this page is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to be used for diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that you are experiencing the type of difficulties described in this article, we strongly advise that you consult with a health professional.

Affiliate Disclaimer: Some of the links to resources listed on this site are affiliate links, including the resource listed on this page. This means that if you click on a link pointing to a vendor on this page and you subsequently purchase any product from that vendor, Cobb & Associates Inc. will receive a percentage of that sale. Please know that we will only review and recommend products that we feel are of high quality and value to the reader. If any product we find on the internet is not of high quality it will not be reviewed on this site. Cobb & Associates was not offered this product for free in exchange for a review. Affiliate commissions are one method we use to offset marketing costs and are not a significant source of income for Cobb & Associates.