What is an addiction?
There is a subtle but important difference between drug use, drug abuse, and drug addiction. Someone can use drugs, or abuse drugs without being addicted, but the opposite is not true. It is not possible to be addicted to drugs without abusing them. Some experts concerned with the sublte difference have outlined different stages in the addiction process.
Stage one is the exploratory phase
Stage two is the recreational stage
Stage three is the abusive stage
Stage four is the dependent stage that we normally associate with the word addiction
How do you know if you have a problem?
In this case "high" refers to the effects of alcohol and other drugs.
- You feel you need to get high almost all the time.
- You find your favourite activities are suddenly boring unless you're high.
- You choose activities based on whether or not you'll be able to get high.
- You stop doing activities that don't allow for you to drink or do drugs.
- You choose new friends, and snub old ones, based on whether or not they like to get high with you.
- You find it takes more and more drugs or alcohol to actually get high.
- You notice you're spending a lot more money than before on drugs and alcohol.
- You start drinking or doing drugs just to deal with your problems.
- You have trouble remembering things.
- You feel sad, angry or anxious when you are not high.
- You drink and/or get high by yourself.
- You like to get high first thing in the morning.
- You find that you have to choose between getting high and taking care of basic duties at home, work or school.
- You argue and fight with people you care about - more than before.
- You always want to get high.
- You drive when you're high.
- You find you're not as alert or "on the ball" as usual.
- You find yourself taking serious risks, just to get high - like going to dangerous areas where drug dealers hang out.
- You start trying new types of drugs in search of a more intense high.
- You start mixing drugs with alcohol, again in search of a more intense high.
Naturally, just because one or two of these symptoms happen to apply to you, doesn't mean that it's time to check yourself in, but if lots of them apply, it may be time for you to recognize that you may have a problem.
|Remember, problems with substance use may creep up on you and it's so much easier to deal with problems early on. The longer you wait, the harder it is because your brain and body take over and the cravings can be extremely difficult to deal with.
Hey, it's a tough world out there, everyday life challenges and mixed media messages and that's why talking helps. Everyone has a different take on things and while you may know a lot about one thing, someone else knows about something else that might even be related to your situation. Parents, friends, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, teachers, counsellors - are excellent to talk to. See Support Group Information.
Long-term consequences: if you don't deal with things early enough
Not all drug and alcohol-related problems are obvious. Some develop over time, below the radar, but as you'll see in this list, they can be extremely serious. The best way to prevent this from happening to you is to catch the signs early, and deal with things while it's still relatively easy to do so.
- Just like cigarettes, marijuana smoke is full of tar and chemicals (more than 400 kinds) and there's no question that this can't be good for our lungs, throat and esophagus. One particular cancer-causing agent called "Benzo (alpha) Pyrene" can be even more concentrated in marijuana smoke than it is in tobacco smoke.
- Many substances - alcohol in particular - can lower inhibitions and cloud your judgement. This means you might do things you would otherwise not do, because of the effects of the drugs on your brain. And it can be scary, in addition to being embarrassing. You might engage in risky sex (which can lead to unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases) or you might even take additional drugs that you normally wouldn't go near.
- Regular and long-term use of alcohol and marijuana interferes with your ability to concentrate, and it makes it harder to learn new things and remember what you already know - and the likely consequence would be poor performance at school and work.
- Marijuana use can trigger psychotic episodes in people that have a high risk for schizophrenia, a psychotic disorder where a person has trouble determining reality, and experiences illogical thinking patterns, delusions and hallucinations. The risk is more likely for people with families that have a history of the disorder.
- Loss of self-control is a fairly common result of problematic substance use in general. When people are drunk or high, they can do things way out of the ordinary so this is certainly something worth thinking about.
- Chronic use of alcohol, for example, can result in serious health problems including nervous system diseases, psychological disorders like anxiety and depression, cancer of the mouth, tongue, esophagus, stomach, and liver - just to name a few.
Source: Health Canada - www.hc-sc.gc.ca