Many people use drug abuse interchangeably with drug dependency and drug addiction. There are minor distinctions between these terms, but generally one leads to another.
Nobody sets out to get addicted to drugs or alcohol. Usually it starts off casually, as an offer from a friend, a desire to belong or just the desire to experiment and see what it's like. This can lead to more recreational use until before you know it, you're reaching for the alcohol or drug to relax, to relieve stress, to reward yourself or to handle difficult situations. Once drug use reaches this stage, it can quickly become abuse. It's no longer "just for fun" but to handle life.
Some people abuse drugs for a short period of time but can recognize their behavior isn't healthy, and stop. Others don't have the desire or the ability to stop. Their drug abuse spirals into drug dependency and from there, it's an invisible line into drug addiction.
When Drug Abuse Starts
Most drug abuse starts in the teenage years when curiosity, peer pressure and the awkwardness of adolescence is high. Statistics show that the younger someone is when they start using, the more likely he or she will struggle with drug abuse or addiction later in life. The most notable signs that someone is slipping into drug use is a change in personality and usual behavior patterns. A teenager who is normally very active and social may suddenly become more reclusive and spend more time alone. They start to lose interest in activities and hobbies they've always been engaged in. Friends and associates may change along with school performance.
Drug abuse can also happen later in life in response to traumatic life situations. The loss of a loved one, experiencing physical or emotional abuse or a life-threatening situation can result in an individual turning to drugs to cope. In this instance, drug abuse is a form of self-medicating. Friends or family members who witness a change in behavior that lends toward depression or isolation can recognize some of these symptoms of drug abuse. It generally takes professional help to overcome.
When Drug Abuse Becomes Drug Addiction
Drug abuse becomes drug addiction when the individual can't stop taking drugs in spite of negative and often severe consequences. When the drug becomes more important than school, relationships, family, work, health or a combination thereof, an individual is in the grip of drug addiction. The drug has become the most important thing in his or her life.
Drug addiction is both physical and psychological. The physical addiction results in withdrawal symptoms when the drug is removed. This can also happen with drug abuse and drug dependency, although the symptoms may not be as severe because usage may not be as heavy or prolonged. Physical addiction is generally severed within a few weeks. However, drug addiction carries the psychological reliance which is far more difficult to sever. Breaking the psychological reliance of drug addiction requires professional help in order for the individual to experience long-term sobriety.
People underestimate the power of drug addiction. Drug addiction and even drug abuse go far beyond will power. Once an individual becomes reliant on a drug, it can be nearly impossible to quit. This is why getting professional help at a drug rehab center is so important. Professional care can help interrupt the cycle. If you or a loved one is abusing drugs, call a drug rehab center immediately for professional help, before it's too late.