Home > The Complex Nature of Abused Substances and Getting Help for Addiction > Patterns of Use
There can be a great deal of variation in how people use alcohol and recreational drugs. These patterns of use will be determined by a number of factors related to the individual and their environment. Some patterns of use can lead to more problems for the individual than others; for example, in recent years there has been increasing concern about the harm of binge drinking. Social drinking is a pattern of use that is acceptable in most countries around the world.
People are not all the same and so they will often have their own unique relationship to alcohol or drugs. The most common patterns of use include:
* Binge drinking is a pattern of alcohol use where people episodically drink excessively. There is debate as to where the line for ‘excessive’ should be drawn, but it is usually classified as more than five drinks for men or four drinks for women. In this case a drink would be classed as a standard beer, a glass of wine, or one shot of spirits. This type of drinking pattern is often associated with college students, but people of all ages may be involved in such behavior.
* Social drinkers are those who only drink occasionally and rarely go above the recommended levels. Weeks may go by without them even thinking about alcohol. If they are advised to stop for health reasons they will have no problem doing so.
* Some people will use alcohol and drugs in response to stress in their life. It is a type of soothing behavior for when things are going bad. The risk with this pattern of substance abuse is that these chemicals may lead to more problems in the life of the individual which in turn creates a further need to use them.
* A functioning addict refers to people who are dependent on these substance but are able to keep their life together. They may have a successful career, with a nice home and family. These people have become skillful at hiding their substance abuse. They will drink and use drugs in a pattern that doesn’t rise to many suspicions. Functioning addicts almost always lose control eventually.
* Light drug users may be breaking the law, but this will only be something they do very occasionally. It often doesn’t impact their life too much.
* Alcohol abuse is where people are drinking so much that it is causing obvious problems. Despite the effects that their behavior is having on their life they are still unwilling to stop.
* Addiction is when people have become physically and psychologically dependant on a substance. They will drink or use every day and will begin to suffer withdrawals if they can’t get access to a supply.
The way that people will use alcohol or drugs will be influenced by a number of factors including:
* The Social group of an individual can have an impact on their pattern of alcohol or drug use. If all their friends like to go out every week and drink heavily there will be a lot of peer pressure to do the same. Those who have low self-esteem can find it particularly hard to say no to this type of pressure.
* The environment that people grow up in can have an influence no their later pattern of drug use. If they grew up in an environment where substance abuse was considered normal behavior they will be more likely to do the same when they get older.
* Most people will go through a period in their life where they have few responsibilities. During this time they might drink too much or take drugs. Once they take on more responsibilities their pattern of use may completely change.
* Some people will be under pressure to behave in a certain way. They may use alcohol and drugs in such a way that it is not likely to damage their behavior. Functioning alcoholics are able to drink a lot every day without it becoming noticeable to other people.
* It is suggested that some people have an addictive personality which means they are more likely to have a pattern of drug use that gets quickly out of control.
* There is evidence that some individuals may be genetically predisposed to addictive behaviors.
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