Watch Out: Two Ways Addiction Can Sneak Up On You

dependence substance use Mar 23, 2023

 It is critical to note that addiction can be subtle in its presentation especially if it is not overtly impacting on daily functioning, productivity or work. It can however, impact other aspects of one's life including interpersonal relationships, cognitive load and capacity to manage big emotions without the automatic decision to use or act out as a way to "handle it".


Here are two ways that addiction that sneak up on you:


1. An extended amount of time is spent thinking about the substance or behaviour

  • An unhealthy preoccupation has developed as a result of continued substance use. You have noticed that you are spending more time seeking out, using or coming down from the substance. Perhaps you have notied physical, emotional and social changes in your life as a result of the behaviour or substance yet continue to engage with it.
  • You have prioritised the substance use or acting out behaviour which has led to social withdrawal or lessened interest and engagement in your typical social or leisure activities including hobbies. If you used to spend you Saturday mornings playing golf or your evenings spending quality time with friends though recently you’ve noticed that Saturday mornings are spent in bed with a hangover and Friday nights are filled with more drugs and alcohol than you previously engaged in, then perhaps this applies to you.


 2. You have consequently developed an increased tolerance

  • It is expected that after continued exposure to substances or unhelpful behaviours, that the body regulates and adapts to its effects. This means that you need more of the substance or escalation in your engagement with the behaviour to experience that level of effect. Please note that if you have developed a tolerance in the past and recall the dosage at your peak of tolerance, if you choose to stop for some time and then choose to use again, if your intake is at that elevated quantity, it can be particularly unsafe and your risk of overdose is much higher.
  • To learn more about harm minimisation and how to be safe in your choices contact the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 1800 250 015.


While we may not notice overt signs of dependence or addiction, it is important to be mindful of the three ways in which they can sneak up on you.

  1. Extended Preoccupation- Thinking about it whilst at work or in other contexts that you wouldn’t necessarily be engaging in it, spending more time being hungover or recovering than in the past
  2. Increased Tolerance- Needing more to feel that same level of buzz


These signs can creep up seemingly out of nowhere so it’s important to check in with yourself as often as possible and know that there are supports to assistance in substance dependence and addiction at whatever point you’re at.