Chemical Dependency and Dependence Continuum

Chemical Dependency involves a habitual need (psychological and/or physical) for drugs or alcohol. The process of chemical dependency is a result of continual substance abuse despite negative consequences. The chronology presented here is what we refer to as the "Dependence Continuum". It shows a teen's typical progression of drug use.

STAGE 1: EXPERIMENTAL DRUG USE
(Late grade school or early junior high years)

Intake:
· Occasional pot-smoking, glue-sniffing. Usually done weekends or during the summer, mostly with friends.
· Easy to get high because of low tolerance.
· Thrill of acting grown up and defying parents is part of the high.

What the world sees:
· Little use of "harder" drugs at this stage.

STAGE 2: MORE REGULAR USE
(Late junior high and early senior high years)

Intake:
· Tolerance increases with increased use. More parties involving kegs (beer) and/or pot, possibly pills, hash or methamphetamines ("ice" or "crank"). Acceptance of the idea the "everyone does it" and wanting to be in on it. Staying out later, even all night.
· Use of alcohol may increase. Willing to suffer hangovers.
· Consumption increases and pride in being able to "handle it" increases.
· Use on week nights begins and skipping school may increase.
· Blackouts may begin, and talk with friends about "What did I do last night?" occurs.
· Solitary use begins, even smoking at home (risk-taking increases). Concentration on fooling parents or teachers when high.
· Preoccupation with use begins. The next high is carefully planned and anticipated. Source of supply is a matter of worry.
· Use during the day starts. Smoking before school to "make it through the morning."

What the world sees:
· Parents become aware of use. May start a long series of 'groundings' for late hours.
· Drug-using friends often not introduced to parents.
· Lying to parents about the extent of use and use of money for drugs.
· School activities are dropped, especially sports. Grades will drop. Truancy increases.
· Non-drug-using friends are dropped. Weekend-long parties may start.

STAGE 3: DAILY PREOCCUPATION

Intake:
· Number of times high during the week increases. Amount of money spent for drugs increases (concealing savings withdrawals from parents).
· "Social use" decreases -- getting loaded rather than just high. Being high becomes normal.
· Buying more and using more -- all activities seem to include drug use.
· Possible theft to get money to ensure a supply. There may be a contact with "bigger" dealers.
· Solitary use increases. User will isolate self from other using friends.
· Lying about or hiding the drug supply. Stash may be concealed from friends.

What the world sees:
· Possible dealing or fronting for others.
· Possible court trouble for minor consumption or possession. May be arrested for driving while intoxicated, theft, etc. Probation may result.
· May try to cut down or quit to convince self that there is no problem with drugs.
· Most straight friends are dropped.
· Money owed for drugs may increase. More truancy and fights with parents about drug use.

STAGE 4: DEPENDENCY (ADDICTION)

Intake:
· Getting high during school or at work. Difficult to face the day without drugs. Drugs are used to escape self.
· Can't tell what normal behavior is anymore -- normal means being stoned nearly constantly.
· Physical condition worsens. Loss of weight, more frequent illnesses, memory suffers, flashbacks may increase. Thoughts of suicide may increase.
· Difficulties with the law may increase.

What the world sees:
· Guilt feelings increase. Questioning own use but unable to control the urge.
· Low self-image and self-hate. Casual sexual involvement. Continued denial of problem.
· School dropped. Dealing may increase, along with police involvement. Parents may "give up."
· Paranoia increases. Cost of habit increases with most of money going to habit.
· Loss of control over use.