The Stages of Drug Addiction
Stage 1: Experimentation
Experimentation is defined as the voluntary use of drugs without experiencing any negative social or legal consequences. For many, experimenting may occur once or several times as a way to “have fun” or even to help the individual cope with a problem. For many, experimentation can occur without any desire to continue using the drug. For others, it can start to become a problem when it moves into the next stage of addiction: regular use.
Stage 2: Regular Use
Some people will be able to enter the stage of regular use without developing a dependence or addiction. These people will be able to stop the drug use on their own. The problem with regular use is that the risk for substance abuse greatly increases during this stage. It also increases risky behaviors such as driving under the influence, unexplained violence, and symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Stage 3: Risky Use/Abuse
The line between regular use and risky use/abuse is a very thin one, but is usually defined as continued use of drugs in spite of severe social and legal consequences. What might have begun as a temporary form of escape can quickly lead to more serious problems. This is the stage where the warning signs of addiction will begin to appear: craving, preoccupation with the drug, and symptoms of depression, irritability and fatigue if the drug is not used.
Stage 4: Drug Addiction and Dependency
Physical dependence on a drug is often intertwined with addiction. Characteristics of dependence and drug addiction include withdrawal symptoms and compulsive use of the drug despite severe negative consequences to his or her relationships, physical and mental health, personal finances, job security and criminal record.
Since nobody “wants” to become an addict, why can’t one “just stop” once they realize they have a problem?
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