Addiction is an unfortunate reality for millions of Americans and people around the world. The thing is, no one decides to become an addict or an alcoholic. No one sets out thinking, “Hey, I think I will become addicted to crack. Yeah, yeah, that sounds like a good idea!” Although trying drugs or alcohol for the first time is a choice, addiction is not a choice.
Anyone who has ever gotten addicted to a mood or mind-altering substance became that way unintentionally. It started out with experimentation. It started out with that first hit, that first drink, that first pill, or that first bump. Then, all hell broke loose. There is a fine line between experimentation and addiction. This begs the question, what is the difference between being addicted and just trying it out?
Trying Drugs or Alcohol – Is it Okay to Experiment?
Most people try drugs or alcohol because they are curious. They have heard that drugs and alcohol change the way a person feels. Wanting to know more, they decide to go ahead and give them a try. “Why not?” they think. “What will it hurt to try alcohol/marijuana/meth/prescription drugs just once? After all, it could be fun!” This is a trap – the same trap that has gotten millions of people addicted.
Addiction is a brain disease. It is not a moral failing or a matter of willpower. Some people have the disease of addiction and some people don’t. The problem is, there is no medical test you can take to determine whether or not you have the disease of addiction. The only way to know if you have it is to take a drink or a drug and see how it reacts with your brain chemistry.
We’ve established that most people try drugs or alcohol because they are curious. Well, as the saying goes, curiosity killed the cat. This old adage is especially true as it relates to the use of drugs and alcohol. Mood and mind-altering drugs are dangerous and highly addictive. Many people who try them quickly become dependent. Furthermore, many an unsuspecting victim has experimented with drugs or alcohol and died trying the stuff. Accidental overdose and alcohol poisoning are very real possibilities for those who try drugs or alcohol.
In short, the best way to steer clear of addiction is NOT to experiment. The best way to avoid alcohol poisoning or accidental overdose is to NEVER try that first drug or drink. Is experimentation okay? Not when your life is on the line!
Addiction Versus Experimentation – The Risk Involved
Some people are able to experiment with drugs or alcohol and then go about their lives without ever touching the stuff again. This is the difference between addiction and just trying it out. Most people do not have the disease of addiction. These kinds of people are able to simply experiment. They try a drug a few times and then leave it alone. They drink a few times and then stop or only drink socially. People who are predisposed to addiction will not be able to accomplish this feat. They will experiment. Then, they will start using it on the weekends. Then, they will start using drugs or alcohol during the week. Then – before they know it – they will be addicted.
Addiction is sneaky like that. It happens gradually then suddenly. Gradually, drug and alcohol use increases over time and then wham! Suddenly, you are hooked. Usually, this progression happens slowly over time. An addiction can continue for years before a person realizes they are powerless over their addiction and admit that their life has become unmanageable. Denial is the powerful driving force behind addiction. It tricks people into believing there is no real problem.
The question is, do you want to take the risk? Are you willing to take that first drug or drink knowing the potential danger, hoping you won’t become an addict? The truth is, it is not worth it. You may be one of those lucky ducks who experiment with drugs or alcohol and then goes about living a normal, happy, and productive life… but what if you’re not? What if you have the disease of addiction? What if, out of curiosity, you smoke a joint only to find yourself addicted to marijuana? What if you try whiskey only to become an alcoholic? Does it sound like fun to be dependent on meth to function as a human being? Do you really want to change it?
The Difference Between Addiction and Just Trying it Out
If you have recently began using drugs or drinking alcohol, you may be wondering if you are addicted. You may be asking yourself, “How do I know the difference between being addicted and just trying it out?” Truthfully, if you are having to ask yourself this question, you may already have a problem with drugs or alcohol. People who do not have a substance abuse problem do not sit around asking themselves if they are addicted. They just don’t. On the other hand, when drug or alcohol use starts becoming a problem, people begin to think they may be hooked.
If you’re wondering if you have stepped over the line between addiction and just trying drugs or alcohol, here are some tale tell signs that you have crossed over to the other side:
- You use drugs or alcohol even when you weren’t planning to.
- When you do drink or drug, you do more than you intended to.
- You begin thinking about drugs or alcohol when you’re not using them.
- Your drug or alcohol use begins to interfere with your daily life.
- You spend a considerable amount of your money on drugs or alcohol.
- Your schedule begins to revolve around your drug or alcohol use.
- Your friendships change and you begin only hanging out with other drug users or drinkers.
- You are physically dependent on drugs or alcohol and if you don’t use them, you get sick.
- You feel extreme regret and remorse as the result of your drug use.
If you are experiencing any of these “symptoms,” you may no longer be experimenting with drugs or alcohol. You may be addicted.
Teens – The Most Likely Group to Try Drugs and Alcohol
Most people take their first drink of alcohol or try their first drug when they are in high school. This is no secret. Teenagers in high school come of age and they begin to experiment with mood and mind-altering substances. In fact, a report from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests that as much as 48 percent of all high school seniors have tried drugs at least once.
Alcohol is the most readily available substance of all substances, so it’s no wonder many teens pick up the stuff. Alcohol is often in the refrigerator at home or in a liquor cabinet. Many teens have parents who drink at least socially and they grow up believing it is okay to drink.
Not only do teens experiment with alcohol in high school, they also smoke marijuana and take other drugs for the first time. Reports indicate the typical marijuana user started smoking pot when they were 14. Although marijuana is not legal in most states – and locating the stuff is not as simple as opening fridge – weed is easy to come by. Many teens in high school will tell you they have either been offered marijuana by one of their peers or been introduced to it by an older sibling or adult.
Prescription medications are also a favorite substance when it comes to experimentation among teens. Whether it’s opiates like Oxycodone or Hydrocodone, or prescription stimulants like Ritalin or Adderall, many teens have easy access to legal prescription medications.
One of the most alarming things about teens experimenting with drugs or alcohol is that they are starting earlier and earlier. The average age for first-time drug use used to be between the ages of 17-19, but new reports suggest that teens are picking up alcohol and drugs as early as 12.
Because teens are less educated about drugs and alcohol than adults, it is easy for teens to cross over from experimentation to addiction. Teens don’t have the coping skills and resources adults do. All too often, teenagers will innocently try drugs or alcohol out of curiosity. Then, they end up addicted.
If You Think You Have an Addiction, Help Isn’t Far Away
If you think you have crossed the line between experimentation and addiction, there is help available. Depending on what drugs you have been using and how often, you may need professional help. But, before taking such a big leap, why not go to a 12-Step recovery meeting?
12-Step meetings are deigned to help people who have become addicted to drugs or alcohol. There, you can get support from people who know what it is like to go from just trying drugs or alcohol to being addicted. They can help determine if you are, in fact, addicted, and offer you the help you need.
Want to know if you have an addictive personality and may be prone to the disease of addiction? Take this personality quiz and find out.