Use, Abuse or Dependence
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is possible you have an issue with AOD. The intensity of the problem depends on many factors. Consider the following terms to identify your level:
- Use: Most people fit into this level. People that use AOD appropriately can manage their use with other parts of their lives. Their work and relationships are not impacted negatively by their use. They are usually free from symptoms of mental health disorders. For some substances like alcohol and marijuana, maintaining this level is easy because they are not as highly addictive as other substances. It is fairly difficult to be a recreational cocaine user as its addictive nature makes it challenging to stay at this level.
- Abuse: The next level of intensity is abuse. People that fall into this category use AOD with increased regularity and consistency. They have had several negative experiences triggered by their abuse and continue to use despite this. People that binge drink or routinely break the law to use drugs will fit into this category.
- Dependence: This is the most intense level of addiction. In this stage, you are psychologically and/or physically addicted to the substance and failure to continue use ends with intense emotional or physical pain. You will need to use before you go to bed at night and again when you wake in the morning. Suddenly ending use at this stage is dangerous and can lead to sickness, seizure or death. The phrase “going cold turkey” refers to the powerful effects of ending opiate use while physically dependent. This act creates significant goose bumps on the skin so that the addict’s skin looks like a cold turkey.
There is disagreement in discussions involving dependence. Some believe that any use of crack cocaine leads to dependence. Others believe marijuana dependence is rare even for daily users as there is unclear evidence about physical addiction. Again, in this situation, it is important to give equal consideration to the psychological impact of the substance as the physical impact.
As stated earlier, someone with depression constantly looks for sources of relief. Increasing exercise, changing diet and attending therapy are known to be effective but require commitment, consistency and diligence. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just drink a beer or take a friend’s prescription stimulant to make you feel better? Yes. It would be nice and convenient, but it would not be best.
People with depression, even if they have not yet been diagnosed, are likely experiment with AOD. During this process, they find that a particular substance or combination of substances make them feel better. This happens in two ways. The first is by reducing the unwanted symptoms of low mood, negative thinking patterns, low energy and sleep problems. The second is by increasing perceived positive aspects of their lives like social acceptance and self-esteem. Of course, these perceptions are flawed, fleeting and only lead to increased problems in the future.
People that self-medicate stifle their own social and emotional development. Not only is substance abuse a negative coping skill, but it also takes away your ability to learn positive coping skills. The way that you handle problems when you are using AOD does not translate to your sober life. If you begin AOD abuse as a 15-year-old and do not stop until you are 30, you will try to address your issues as you did as a 15-year-old. The emotional and social immaturity will impede all aspects of your life.