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An Almost Addiction

Alan Cleaver/

It's possible to be almost addicted to a substance, according to Wesley Boyd, who co-authored the book "Almost Addicted" in 2012. Dr. Boyd is the founder of the Human Rights and Asylum Clinic at CHA; a physiatrist at Cambridge Health Alliance; and on the faculty of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. 

Interview highlights

An almost addiction 

You're not exactly using drugs in a way that would be considered normal or entirely problematic, but at the same time, you're not using drugs in a manner that your use rises to the level of substance abuse or substance dependence. So there's a gray zone between what we consider diagnostic for substance abuse, and for what many people would consider normal drug use. 

Are 'almost addicts' on their way to addiction?

We think it could be causing problems in the moment, even if people don't necessarily see that. We certainly ask a lot of questions to get people thinking about their drug use. But also because using drugs in the 'almost addiction' range could ultimately develop into a full-blown addiction. 


They might have some of the same symptoms that someone might have if they were substance abusers or substance dependents, but to a lesser degree or fewer a number.


Try to be as straight forward and honest with one's self as possible about one's relationship with a substance. That can involve asking some pretty hard questions... If it's possible, to enlist the opinions of my loved ones... We encourage people to open a dialogue with loved ones... It can require individuals to use less of the drug or in some cases to give it up entirely. Among the other things we encourage people to, because bad habits often come in clusters, to try to address those issues as well. Because good habits tend to come in clusters (there are other parts of you life; other bad habits that you have: smoking tobacco, drinking too much, not exercising, etc.), we actually did some research in writing the book, and we found that eating a healthier diet is correlated with less substance use. Another thing that we encourage people to do is engage in healthy behaviors, and sometimes that means: getting more involved at work, for example; or picking up hobbies; other endeavors that really fulfill you and give you a sense of meaning and purpose so that you don't need to fill that void with that substance. 

This interview originally aired on Nov. 4, 2012.