The drug addiction journey varies with every person. Some become addicts within a very short period while others take ample time before getting addicted. Drug addiction does not happen overnight. For most addicts, it all began as a casual use which later escalated to addiction after going through some stages.
In brief, there are five main steps of addiction which are experimentation, regular use, risky use, dependence and finally addiction. Not every person in the first three stages of addiction will become addicts. Addiction is a complex experience that varies with the level of use for each and the dysfunction they experience when using. However, it can be treated at any stage.
What is an Addiction?
Addiction results from a compulsive advancement of substance use, which results in changes in body, mind, and behavior. American Society of Addiction Medicine describes addiction as a chronic illness that involves memory, brain circuitry, and motivation. Psychologists define drug addiction as a pattern of drug use that leads to major impairment in functioning.
Stages of Addiction
Many addicts do not intend to become psychologically or physically reliant on drugs. It all starts with a simple desire to try new experiences that will shake up our daily routine and add excitement into our lives. It mainly happens when we are young and vulnerable to peer influence.
For instance, a close friend may introduce you to heroin at a party. Inclined to try, you use heroin for the very first time, and it gives you a euphoric feeling that you have never felt before and you like it. Nevertheless, you have no desires or plans to continue using the drug at any time. Unknowingly, you are in stage one of drug abuse.
It is the same case when a patient with chronic pain is trying to ease the pain with marijuana or a friend borrowing some Vicodin from another to help relieve menstrual cramps. If effectual, they may end up using the drugs again and again when similar symptoms show; thus making them vulnerable to dependence and addiction.
Experimentation phase involves voluntarily use of drugs but occasionally, without any negative implications. At this stage, you have total control over the drugs. You can easily quit using, and you may even go for a longer period without using drugs.
Regular Drug Use
When a user begins to incorporate the drugs into their normal routines, experimental use shifts and becomes regular use. If you find yourself taking meth whenever you must stay up till all hours, say revising for an exam, you certainly have progressed to daily usage.
So far, you are not yet dependent on the drug for your mental or physical functioning, and you still feel that you have complete control over your use. However, you begin to train your brain to adapt to the benefits that come with the utilization of the drug like pain relief, relaxation or stress reduction.
Some people can probably choose to stop if they want to, others may not want to give it up. The problem with regular usage is the increasing risk of the significant substance abuse.
Risky Drug Use, Problem Use
Once regular use escalates to problem stage, the use of drugs which initially was not an issue of concern now becomes problematic. What might have naturally begun as a temporary form of escape, quickly escalates to serious problems? It is challenging stage to identify since what one may consider a risky behavior; another might not. You will, however, notice significant behavioral changes that will alarm you. The drugs may begin to negatively affect your grades, job performance or even your relationship with your loved ones.
Your judgment is now clouded, and you start doing things you never thought in the past you would do. You may find yourself engaging in risky behaviors such as having unsafe sex when high, binge drinking, sharing needles, unexplained violence or driving under the influence. Many people become aware of their problematic habits when faced with negative consequences like a spouse splitting up with them, confronted with legal problems or when they lose their jobs.
As they mature, most teenagers end up outgrowing drug use as they take on their adult responsibilities. Some though don’t give it up but progress through to the addiction stages. Even though risky drug use is an ordinary thing for an adolescent, parents ought not to take too lightly the addictive nature of narcotics.
At the risky use stage, stopping now becomes much more challenging. You may attempt to stop, but you may not be able to resist cravings. It is often hard to envisage living without the drug, even if your substance use makes your life feel less manageable.
Dependence develops when your brain gets used to the feelings generated by the use of drugs, be it cocaine, heroin, marijuana, alcohol or opium. You develop a consistent pattern of craving and use to the extent that you require the drugs to function right.
Your brain is accustomed to reacting positively to particular sensations that your body and mind is reliant on. Tolerance is established when you have a need to increase your substance intake, to feel relaxed or high. The doses that you were taking when starting seem insufficient. Drug dependence can either be psychological or physical.
Psychological dependence refers to the need of using a drug to reach a level that will enable one to function or feel healthy. Some mental drug withdrawal symptoms include depression, forgetfulness, anxiety, panic and difficulties in paying attention.
Physical dependence entails the issues of tolerance establishment, physiologic dependence, and evidence of withdrawal symptoms upon trying to stop drug use. Tolerance, withdrawal, and dependence develop differently depending on the particular substance. Physical symptoms of withdrawal include sweating, seizures, muscle pain, nausea among others.
Once you have reached the dependence stage, quitting drug use is not an option even though you want to. Unless you go through medication therapy and seek rehabilitation, there is a likelihood of a relapse if you try to go clean on your own.
A continued abuse of drugs often leads to addiction. During this stage, dependence on drug adopts a compulsive use despite the severe negative consequences. The substance becomes a necessity in your life to function, and you end up doing just anything, including stealing, for you to get it.
Your cravings for the drugs are unbearable and you no longer fight back the urge to keep using progressively more. You have no control over your body, but instead, the drug is controlling you.
Some of the notable effects of drug addiction include relapsing when you attempt to quit, losing normal emotional reactions, lack of awareness of the problems created by your drug use, physical injuries, diseases and eventually death. When you finally develop an addiction to drugs, the only left option is professional help and addiction treatment.
Nevertheless, you do not have to reach the addiction stage for you to stop. Experts are usually available at all stages of addiction to furnish you with counseling right from the experimental stage, and to help you break free from the mental and physical dependence in the addiction stage.
- Readers Rating
- Rated 5 stars
5 / 5 (Reviewers)
- Your Rating