People begin using drugs for many different reasons. For a growing adolescent the reason could be that a parent drinks excessively or uses drugs, and the adolescent learns that “this is how we cope with life in our family.”
Other reasons for beginning use are curiosity or wanting to fit in with peers, or a need for excitement.
Sometimes, especially for someone who has experienced any past trauma, initial drug use has to do with avoiding feelings and a desire to escape from a painful past.
No one ever starts using drugs with the intention of becoming addicted, and not everyone who uses drugs is addicted.
There are four types of drug users. The first type is the experimental user. This person tends to use a drug once or twice, experiences a negative consequence or a negative reaction to the drug, and never uses it again.
The next type of drug user is the occasional user. This person develops a pattern of indulging in a drug occasionally in small amounts and usually in a social setting.
The primary intent is getting together with friends; the drug is secondary.
The occasional user does not seek the drug or buy it. However, an occasional user is at risk of progressing to the next type of drug user, which is the drug abuser.
Drug abusers have gone through the experimentation and the controlled use for a period of time and have progressed to abusing the drug. This person generally uses to the point of intoxication at least occasionally and might be using increased quantities of the drug.
With certain types of drugs, a drug abuser might start experimenting with other routes of administration. For a drug abuser, the drug has taken on a new importance.
Drug abusers begin to experience negative consequences. If a person who abuses drugs ignores the negative consequences and continues to use, the person becomes addicted.
The problem is that people who have progressed to becoming addicts often believe that they are drug abusers and that they can stop any time they want.
Addiction is comprised of the compulsion to use a drug, loss of control over the substance and continued use in spite of negative consequences. Once a person is addicted to a substance, that person can never successfully go back to experimental or occasional use again.
In 12-step programs it is said that “a pickle can never go back to being a cucumber.” Sometimes people continue to suffer or even die trying to regain the control that has been permanently lost.
Help is available for any type of drug user. Addiction is a disease that requires treatment. In recovery, addicts go on to live happy, healthy and productive lives.
When given the chance to recover, no one is a lost cause.
Mary Bieda, MS, LPC is a licensed professional counselor and pastoral counselor in private practice in Old Town Bluffton.