Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Drug and alcohol abuse is a devastating condition of growing concern throughout the United States. Drug and alcohol abuse destroys friendships, marriages, families and communities. Although people choose to experiment and use drugs and alcohol, nobody intends to become an addict suffering from drug and alcohol abuse and it usually occurs in stages of drug and alcohol abuse.
Stages of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
- Experimental use - Typically involves peers; Done for recreational use; The user may enjoy defying parents or other authority figures.
- Regular use - The user misses more and more school or work; Uses drugs and alcohol to "fix" negative feelings; Begins to stay apart from friends and family; May change peer group to others who are regular users; Takes pride in nothing; Increased tolerance and ability to "handle" the drug and/or alcohol.
- Daily preoccupation - The user looses any motivation; The user is indifferent toward school and work; Behavior changes become obvious; Preoccupation with drug and alcohol abuse overrides all prior interests, including relationships; the user engages in secretive behavior; May begin dealing drugs to help support habit; use of other, harder drugs may increase; Legal complications may increase.
- Dependence - Cannot face daily life without drugs and alcohol; Denial of problem; Worsening physical condition; Loss of "control" over use; May become suicidal; Financial and legal complications worsen; May have severed ties with family members or friends by this time.
Each individual falls into drug and alcohol abuse for different reasons initially, but in the end what was once just recreational or occasional use becomes a daily occurrence of drug and alcohol abuse. As time passes, the ability to distinguish between the desire to use and the need to use becomes blurry. the person then becomes dependent on the drug and alcohol abuse to make them feel “normal”. At this point the person has crossed the line into drug and alcohol abuse.
Drug and alcohol abuse affects each person differently. This variable is one of the things that makes drug and alcohol abuse so dangerous. No individual can know prior to taking drug and alcohol what kind of affect it will have on them. Some users can use drugs and alcohol periodically and never become addicted, while others can become instantly addicted upon the first use of drugs and alcohol.
The initial decision to take drugs and alcohol is voluntary. However, when drug and alcohol abuse takes over, a person's ability to exert self control can become seriously impaired. Brain imaging studies from drug and alcohol abusers show physical changes in areas of the brain that are critical to judgment, decision making, learning and memory, and behavior control. Scientists believe that these changes alter the way the brain works, and may help explain the compulsive and destructive behaviors of drug and alcohol abuse.
Often, people who do not abuse drugs or alcohol are unable to understand why a drug and alcohol abuser can’t just “use a little willpower” to stop their drug and alcohol abuse. Drug and alcohol abuse has little to do with willpower. Addicts are in the grip of powerful “cravings” or an uncontrollable need for alcohol or drugs that overrides their ability to stop the drug and alcohol abuse. This need can be as strong as the need for food or water.
Although some people with drug and alcohol abuse are able to recover without help, the majority of addicts suffering with drug and alcohol abuse need professional assistance. With professional drug and alcohol abuse treatment and support, many individuals are able to put an end to their drug and alcohol abuse problems and rebuild their lives. Often, a drug and alcohol abuse treatment program can be the difference between life and death.