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Casual drinking or addiction? Here's how you can know for sure.

"I only drink at parties"

"The only time I have a joint is when I'm really stressed"

"One cigarette after work is not a big deal"

We've all made these comments whenever anyone questions us about our drinking and smoking. We've all also had friends who worry we're doing it too much and try to convince us to quit. But we hardly ever do because we don't feel it's a problem. In our in-house survey, we spoke to around 200 young adults from Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai and found that 70% of respondents considered themselves casual users when they were actually showing signs of addiction.

According to the survey conducted by All India Institute of Medical Sciences in 2019, India is home to approximately 3 crore people dependent on various drugs including alcohol, cannabis, opioids and inhalants.

The line between casual use and addiction can be blurry and often times we fail to notice. What complicates matters is these things are very common at our homes, our work groups, amongst our friends and the one who tries to put a stop is quite often dismissed by others in the group. So here we bring you scientifically established, six warning signs that will help you decide for sure-

1. There exists a strong desire, almost a compulsion to use the drug(s)/substance(s).

2. This person has difficulty in controlling how much of the drug do they consume and when is the time to stop.

3. You have noticed signs of physical withdrawal in them when they're not taking the drug. These withdrawal signs differ with different drugs but a good way to identify this withdrawal. Most drug withdrawals are reactions exact opposite to that drug's intended effect. To give you an example, nicotine makes one concentrate, attentive and calm in the short term but nicotine withdrawal will make you distracted, anxious and restless. (This is another reason why many people complain of constipation without smoking a cigarette).

4. You have noticed that over a period of time, this person needs more and more quantity of this drug to experience its desired effects (or get high). We call this tolerance.

5. Gradually, you might notice them spending more and more time using the drug, obtaining it from different sources to the point that their life begins revolving around this drug and they begin ignoring activities they once liked.

6. The last sign to look out for is that they will choose the substance at the cost of everything else i.e. even when there is evidence of how the drug is harming them or those around them. For instance, a person may become so aggressive under the influence of alcohol that they might end up hurting themselves or those around but still not realise that alcohol could be a possible cause.

These signs not only apply to ingested substances but even behavioural addictions like internet addiction, gaming addiction or even gambling. It is also important to know that addiction is not a choice, but a disease and it's important to encourage the person to get all the right professional help. In fact, there are specific therapies designed to help those struggling with addiction and people can and do come out of it.

Note: These are warning signs to only help you with information that can be used identify those struggling with addiction around you. We urge you to refer them to a mental health professional for a formal diagnosis and treatment. Further, you can read the entire survey report by clicking on the highlighted text here.

For any other concerns, we are available at

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