Progression Of Abuse To Addiction: A Primer

Stages of Addiction Few people take their first dose of a drug-- legal or illegal-- with the hope of getting addicted. For 2009, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration declares that 23.5 million people sought some form of treatment for drug and alcohol problems. Of course, individual physiology and psychological makeup have much to do with how quickly addiction can take hold and with the amount consumed before passing the unseen threshold from freedom to enslavement.

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While each individual case may be different in time frame and ferocity of dependence, certain patterns are common within the entire pool of drug abusers. Out of the statements of addicts and the professionals who care for them, clinicians are able to single out benchmarks for the phases of drug addiction.

Experimenting With Drugs

Addiction does not have to start in adolescence. Even the elderly may take alcohol or drugs to alleviate isolation. With no honest self evaluation-- an honest assessment of the signals of drug addiction-- a person may pass unwittingly into the more severe stages of drug addiction.

Consistent Use

Taking a drug or other substance on a regular basis does not always lead an individual into addiction. Some people can consume a substance regularly for a period and after that end its consumption with negligible distress. The probability of addiction is based upon the length of the use period and the potency of the doses. Should the duration continue indefinitely and the strength of dosage also increase, routine usage could emerge as prescription addiction. Another cautionary sign is certain adjustments in conduct. If speech and conduct adjustment significantly, especially a heightened inclination toward aggressiveness and unsafe conduct, it is necessary to end using the drug.

Dangerous Usage

As the stages of drug addiction are passed through, the individual's personal decisions and conduct become progressively unsafe, both to herself or himself and others. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health declared that 28.4 percent of young adults in between the ages of 21 and 25 drove under the influence of illicit substances in 2009.

• Operating a vehicle while under the influence of a sedative • Using cash foolishly to obtain the drug • Defensiveness in conversation • Secretiveness • Changes in appearance. Changes in appetite, memory failure and worsening fine motor skills are also warning signs of substance abuse. The line of demarcation between high-risk use and dependence is thin and difficult to identify. Getting help for yourself or a person you care about ought not be delayed at this stage.


Of all the stages of drug dependence, addiction and use are the most difficult to distinguish. The devastating consequences of substance abuse are definitely unmistakable in dependency. For example, the dependent person is commonly absent from their job due to repetitious usage of the controlling substance. Over and above the employer, the drug abuser may occasionally let responsibilities to family, good friends, neighbors and society go by the wayside. The unsafe behaviors noted above become much more regular also. Through all of this, though, the dependent stands apart from the addict by fulfilling enough obligations to preserve the fundamental structure of his/her life. Although the direction of drug abuse phases is still headed downward, the appearance of functionality persists.


If adjustments are not made-- and aid is not looked for-- the stages of drug addiction lead to the most severe phase: addiction itself. Now the person is psychologically and physically bound to ongoing use of the substance or alcohol. The point of brain disease is arrived at and the patient is susceptible to numerous destructive results of long-term drug abuse. At this particular intensity, the person seeking liberty from addiction must submit to detoxing. Because the addiction is of both body and mind, withdrawal symptoms are best overseen and remedied by seasoned doctors. Once the enslaving drug has left the physical body, the substance abuser should work with psychotherapists to determine the causes and nature of the addiction. Systematic and honest therapy with mental health professionals, intermixed with regular attendance in a self-help group has led many seemingly irreparable addicts to lives without drug abuse.

Without a candid self-assessment-- an honest appraisal of the signs of substance addiction-- a person could pass unwittingly into the more distressing stages of drug addiction. Using a drug or other substance on a routine basis does not necessarily lead someone into addiction. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 28.4 percent of young adults in between the ages of 21 and 25 operated a vehicle under the influence of illegal drugs in 2009. Of all the stages of drug addiction, use and dependence are the hardest to demarcate. If changes are not initiated-- and aid is not looked for-- the stages of drug addiction draw a person to the most harmful stage: addiction itself.

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