Drug abuse is the habitual use of over-the counter, legal or illegal drugs that result in negative consequences. Drug abuse is also referred to as substance abuse or chemical abuse.
Drug addiction is more than habitual use. A drug addict has a physical dependence on a drug or drugs and cannot cease their usage regardless of the negative consequences. Consequences often go beyond the physical and psychological, impacting personal, professional and social aspects of the addict’s life. While some individuals addicted to drugs can quit on their own, many rely on the services of a drug rehabilitation center.
Stages of drug addiction
Stage 1: Experimentation
Experimenting with drugs is the first step toward addiction. During this phase the individual tries various drugs and often selects a drug that ultimately becomes their addiction. The reasons for experimentation vary widely, including peer pressure, stress, curiosity or a traumatizing life event. Often experimentation leads to the next stage, Regular Use.
Stage 2: Regular use
Following experimentation, drug use often becomes habitual. This marks the second stage of addiction. Drug use during this phase is often hard to detect as they can largely carry out their normal daily routines. Signs of addiction are usually there, they just are less apparent to those without knowledge of the individual’s drug use. The length of time one spends in the steady use phase varies widely.
Stage 3: Dependency
The third stage of addiction is dependence. During this phase the individual often partakes in risky behaviors such as using drugs at work or driving under the influence. During the dependence phase it is more difficult to maintain a normal routine as the drugs beging taking a high priority. It is during this phase when the budding addiction becomes apparent to friends, family or coworkers.
Stage 4: Addiction
Stage four is full-blown addiction. For the addict, it is difficult to distinguish between dependence and addiction because with addiction comes denial. During this phase drugs take the highest priority in the addicted’s life. For anyone suffering from full-blown addiction the best course of action is to seek treatment before the addiction get’s too far out of control.
Diagnosing drug addiction
Drug addiction is a medical condition that is diagnosed like any other disorder. The most commonly used guide to diagnose addiction is the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSMTM).
The current version, the DSM-5TM, states that for an individual to be classified as having a substance-absuse disorder 2 of the following 11 criteria must be met within one calendar year:
- The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
- There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use of the substance.
- A great deal of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain the substance, use the substance, or recover from its effects.
- Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use the substance.
- Recurrent use of the substance resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home.
- Continued use of the substance despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of its use.
- Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of use of the substance.
- Recurrent use of the substance in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
- Use of the substance is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or ex acerbated by the substance.
- Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
- A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect.
- A markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.
- Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
- The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for other (or unknown) substance.
- The substance (or a closely related substance) is taken to relieve or avoid with drawal symptoms.