Based on these criteria, people who only use a specific drug for medical reasons and according to the instructions provided by their physician would not be diagnosed with a substance use disorder, even if they develop tolerance and withdrawal. Medicinal use of a substance is not considered to reflect addictive behavior.
When the person begins to lose control of their use of the substance and to compulsively use it in different contexts, they have developed a substance use disorder.
You may habitually drink caffeine and feel lousy when you do not get your cup of coffee in the morning, but that does not necessarily mean you have an addiction. Remember that your use of a substance must cause significant distress or impairment in functioning, and you must demonstrate noteworthy problems controlling your use of the substance over different instances.
You can use certain substances, like caffeine and other drugs that could be considered habit-forming, but not struggle with addiction to them. On the other hand, you can be diagnosed with a caffeine use disorder (a substance use disorder as a result of caffeine use) if you met the diagnostic criteria for that disorder based on your use of caffeine.
Signs of Concern
If you are concerned you have developed an addiction to a substance, that concern itself is a sign that you should speak with a licensed mental health care professional. You cannot diagnose yourself, and substance use disorders require an evaluation and formal diagnosis from a medical professional.