If an individual regularly uses drugs then this behavior can be described as habitual. It is possible to use some recreational drugs on a regular basis, at least for awhile, without developing a physical addiction or psychological dependence. It is also useful to think of habitual drug use as the first stage of addiction. Of course the individual will continue to be a habitual user once they are chemically addicted so the terminology can become confusing.
To say that something is habitual is to imply that it has become a habit. So the habitual drug user will be somebody who uses this substance on a regular basis. This might only be every weekend when they go out with friends, or it could be every day of the week. These individuals may start taking these substances regularly out of boredom, or to escape their problems. Some people just seem to slip into habitual drug use without ever intending it to happen.
Habitual drug use may be viewed as the second stage of addiction. It is important to point out here that not everyone will progress to the later stages. Some people manage to reform their behavior before they become chemically addicted. The four stage of addiction are:
* Experimenting with drugs. The individual is just curious about these substances and wants to see what all the fuss is about. They may also have problems in their life and see drugs as a temporary reprieve from this.
* Habitual use. The individual likes the effects of these drugs so they start to use them more regularly. Some people manage to remain at this stage for many years; a lot depends on the individual’s characteristics, the type of drug they are using, and the frequency of use.
* Drug abuse. This is when people move from habitual use to actually abusing the substance. They will start to experience the negative effects of such abuse.
* Dependence. The individual continues to use the drug even though it is obviously causing problems in their life.
* Addiction. They have now developed a physical and psychological addiction. If they try to stop they will experience withdrawal symptoms. Their tolerance for the drug will increase.
A person does not have to become addicted to a substance for it to cause devastation in their life. Some of the risks associated with habitual drug use include:
* Criminality. Using illegal substances can lead people into other forms of criminal behavior. Those who involved in the selling of these substances can be highly dangerous and unpredictable.
* Overdose is always going to be a risk with these substances. It is particular likely to happen when the purity of the drug is unknown. People have overdosed on drugs even though it was their first time.
* Mental health problems . Even occasional drug use can lead to metal health problems such as depression. Those who have already been diagnosed with a mental health condition can exacerbate their symptoms.
* Habitual drug use can damage internal organs. These substances are toxic and damage can occur even with only occasional recreational drug use.
* Some individuals have adverse reactions to drugs when they first try them. It could kill them. There is no safe way to predict who is going to react badly to these substances.
* Habitual use often leads to a full-blown addiction. The drug takes over the person’s life and most will follow this path until it kills them. Once an addiction takes hold it can be hard to escape.
* Those individuals who habitually abuse drugs are more at risk of accidents because of impaired judgment. They are also more likely to become a victim of crime.
The line between habitual drug use and addiction is unclear. The individual may be unaware of the transition. It isn’t until they try to change their behavior, or have difficulties obtaining their drug, that the change becomes more noticeable. The symptoms of addiction include:
* Increased tolerance for the drug
* Withdrawal symptoms appear when the substance level is low in the blood stream
* Mood swings and personality changes
* The individual loses in interest in activities that they once enjoyed.
* Problems at home and at work
* An obsession with ensuring a regular supply of the drug. When they are not using they are thinking about using.
* Strange behavior
* A wiliness to take unreasonable risks
* A loss of interest in personal grooming
* They become defensive when anyone questions their drug use
* Denial of the problem
* Paranoia and irritability
* Loss of weight
* Financial problems
It does appear that some individuals are more at risk of addiction than others. There are a number of characteristics that have been associated with an addictive personality including:
* Proneness to depression
* Engages in antisocial behavior and admires rule breakers
* They believe that they have a lot of stress in their life
* A need to be the centre of attention
* Low self-esteem
* Such individuals find it difficult to delay gratification
* They feel like outsiders a lot of the time
* Insecurity in relationships
There are also a number of risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing and addiction including:
* Previous mental health problems
* A family history of drug abuse problems
* Trauma in childhood
* Psychological problems
Just because these risk factors do not apply to the individual does not mean that they are safe from addiction. The characteristics of the addictive personality are also only meant as a guide and not as a definitive way to predict who will become addicted.
Taking recreational drugs on a regular basis is a high risk behavior. Some people may get away with it for a long period of time, but most will experience difficulties in life because of it. The move from regular use into addiction is subtle so many of these individuals will be in denial about the extent of their problem. The addiction severity index can be a good tool for determine the true extent of drug use.
Those who are not chemically addicted to a substance will usually find that it is possible to stop without the need for treatment. Information about the dangers of their behavior can be enough to convince them to stop. Those who feel unable to quit alone will find that there are many different resources that can help, including support groups, medical professionals, addiction therapists, rehab, religious representatives, and various community programs.