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How Experimental Use May Progress into Addiction

How Experimental Use May Progress into AddictionWhen we look at drug addiction and the ages in which it holds its full grasp on users, we must understand what addiction is. We must have a baseline for which we can base whether or not an addiction is present. Addiction is defined as a disease of the brain that causes people to seek out and depend on a substance or activity.

This clearly eliminates experimental use, but when use goes from experimental to an addiction may be a grey area not well defined. These are signs that experimental use may have progressed into an addiction:

  •         A persistent desire or failed attempt to control the use of the drug;
  •         A recurring use of the drug that results in failing to perform major responsibilities in life (work, school, family);
  •         Withdrawal from social or recreational activities the user once enjoyed;
  •         Continued use despite negative consequences due to use of the drug;
  •         Withdrawals from not using drug; and
  •         Increased tolerance (need to use greater amounts for same effect)

While first exposure to the use of drugs can happen at any point in life, the earlier it happens, the more likely one is to develop an addiction to the substance. However, to define a peak age of drug use, one must get a general overview of the many different drugs of choice that are to be considered.

DrugAbuse.com displays graphical information that provides an overview of the peak drug use of the different modern generations divided up between the individual drugs. Consistent peak periods of use are between 18 and 22 years old, with some drugs having a steep decline following those years, yet some have a much gradual decline. According to the graphs, alcohol and painkiller abuse declines at a much slower pace than drugs such as hallucinogens or cocaine.

A developing addiction will likely take time to surface to the level where the signs discussed earlier become visible. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the peak age for beginning to engage in alcohol and marijuana use is 18 years of age, while cocaine is 20 years of age. However, when looking at dependency based on the clinical standard, peak age for these illicit substances showed slightly different time frames. The NCBI found that dependency spiked for marijuana and alcohol at the ages of 17-18, while cocaine waited until the ages of 23-25.

DrugAbuse.gov collaborated these results, indicating that late teens and into the twenties were the prime ages for drug use. Alcohol use peaks before one turns 25 years of age. However, further information reveals that drug use is actually increasing for the age group of 50s to 60s, as the baby boomers age and continue their historical high drug use behavior. After the age of 40, the risk of abusing painkillers, sleeping pills, and other over-the-counter narcotics can be severe in this population.

Studies are predicting that by the year 2020, the United States will be in need of double the amount of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers.


Did you know an addiction can be caused by a mental disorder?

One of the primary reasons that mental disorders and substance abuse so often go hand-in-hand is that drugs and alcohol can provide an escape from the pressures of mental health problems. Self-medicating is surprisingly common: you’re not alone.

But unlike real, effective, long-term solutions, such as medication and detoxification in a treatment center, drugs and alcohol won’t amount to effective treatment.

If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from addiction, then take our free 3 minute assessment.

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