Drug use can be viewed as a series of developmental stages: initiation, escalation, maintenance, discontinuation (sometimes including relapse), and recovery. Some clients go from one stage to another, others do not. Some relapse many times, whereas others bypass relapse altogether.
Drug experimentation typically begins during adolescence, in social settings during middle or high school. Teens rarely try drugs alone. Alcohol is usually the first drug tried and is often provided in homes by parents, family, or friends as a social gesture.
This is a time when clients recall using drugs occasionally. This is a time of increasing preoccupation with substances, more frequent use, and when intoxication is thought of as “normal and fun”. There is usually no concern at this stage about one’s health or future.
When full-blown addiction has occurred, all other life activities become secondary to obtaining and using drugs. Using becomes a daily devotion, an obsession. At this stage using is no longer “fun”; it is a necessity just to feel normal.
DISCONTINUATION AND RELAPSE
Some people stop using drugs and alcohol to avoid overdoses, death, illness, loss of family, loss of jobs. Others stop temporarily because of incarceration or court-orders. Some people break free from their addictions on their own. Many addicts, however, require drug rehab treatment from qualified, caring treatment professionals in order to help them quit.
Recovery occurs when addicted clients acknowledge that the drugs and alcohol are causing their ever increasing problems. Despite the negative consequences, they grieve the loss of their drug of choice and the lifestyle. Little by little, one step at a time, they replace their so-called “best friend” with a healthier life-style including the 12-step program, new friends, addiction treatment and sober activities.