You know you’re an addict if…

Most smokers refuse to believe that they’re addicts. Often because they haven’t been arrested for using tobacco, have never stolen tobacco, haven’t gotten into fights over tobacco, etc.

Tobacco isn’t heroin, so you’re not “really” an “addict” if you’re addicted to it — the thinking goes.

I thought it might be interesting to post a partial list of some of the symptoms of addiction.

Go through the list and see how many you have. Any one who has three or more of these is probably addicted to the substance in question. The higher the number that they admit to, the more likely it is that they’re addicted.


When making Greek coffee, you mix the pulverized coffee grains directly into the hot water, boil it 3 times, then serve it all together – no straining.

  • Feelings (or cravings) that you have to use the drug regularly. Need to have it first thing in the morning, after meals, when stressed, to relax.
  • You suffer symptoms if you go too long without the drug. You get jittery, have difficulty sleeping, shaking, irritability, headache.
  • You’ve failed in your attempt to stop using the substance.
  • You make certain that you maintain a supply of the drug.
  • You spend money on the drug, even though you may have difficulty affording it.
  • Feeling that you need the drug to deal with problems, stressors.
  • Continuing to use the drug in spite of negative consequences. Increased risk of many types of cancer (not just lung cancer). Mouth, throat, tracheal, bladder, pancreatic cancers and others. Increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Emphysema, chronic cough, bronchitis.
  • Continuing to use it in spite of negative consequences to family and friends. Dangers of second-hand smoke to others (cancer risk, bronchitis, etc), provoking allergies, asthma, etc.
  • Using the drug in areas where you know that it is prohibited (non-smoking areas, bathrooms, hospitals, and for some, airplanes).
  • Leaving social functions, meetings, etc. to use the drug.
  • Ignoring warnings from others that they are concerned about you, concernd about your health.
  • Minimizing scientific evidence that this behavior is addictive, and that it can have serious health consequences and other negative effects.
  • Denying that one is an addict in spite of all of the above evidence.

Obviously, the above list would be somewhat different if we were talking about, for example, alcohol. In that case, we’d ask if someone has ever driven under the influence, lost a driver’s license for a DUI, committed some other crime while under the influence, etc.  Though, some would be the same.

There are several lists available to see if someone is addicted. They vary somewhat from author to author. Some are based on studies others on personal experiences with addicts.

Speaking of alcohol, a simple list to check for alcoholism (only) is the CAGE questionnaire:

Please answer ALL the questions

1. Have you ever felt you needed to Cut down on your drinking?

2. Have people Annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?

3. Have you ever felt Guilty about drinking?

4. Have you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (Eye-opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

There are several others for alcoholism, and somewhat different ones for addiction.

And here is a fairly general one that covers both addiction and alcoholism. Not all of the questions would fit in with a smoking addiction.

John reported back to me, when editing this story, that he came scored a “5” on the addiction checklist I posted at the top (regardig “coffee”).  How about you? Any addictions on which you score a 3 or above?

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Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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