How Addiction Creep and Drug Use Connect

12/15/17: Addiction \ Addiction Prevention \ Drug Addiction
No one ever really starts drug or alcohol use with the intent on becoming an addict. So how does it happen, too frequently and too fast? There are some basic misconceptions that, when left ignored, can take moderate recreational use into full blown addiction. People believe that social use of drugs or alcohol can be managed, as if it can be controlled. Guess what? Not so much. Contrary to popular belief, drugs control you, you don’t control drugs. There’s a certain process in how addiction evolves in the mind, body and spirit. I call it addiction creep. What’s so scary about it is that you don’t know it’s taking place. This is how addiction creep and drug use connect, with detrimental consequences.

What Is Addiction Creep?

If you are in the working world, the term scope creep is probably familiar. Used in project management and the tasking of employees involved in a project, scope creep is the escalation of anything related to the project that goes beyond the predetermined (and often approved) scope of work. Scope creep can include exceeding budgets, time, resources, and overall scale of the project. Addiction creep and scope creep bear similarities in the aspect of control. Scope creep on a work project can make the project unmanageable, much like addiction creep can do to one’s daily life. But there is one key difference between the two. Scope creep can easily be scaled back to its original plan. Addiction creep cannot. Here’s why. During drug or alcohol use, changes in the brain occur in functionality and physiological shape. Over time, these changes permanently affect one’s physical health, mental processes and emotional coping mechanisms. How much time does it take? Not long.

Recreational Use Is the Door Opener to Substance Use Disorder

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a person who engages in illegal drugs, or legal drugs used in a manner unlike the way they are prescribed or intended, defines drug abuse. This includes ongoing use for the purposes of pleasure, escapism or relieving stress. It is drug abuse that fosters addiction creep, where the practice of repetitive drug use increases to a point that is uncontrollable, leading to addiction (also known as substance use disorder). The body and brain develop a reference point, of sorts, that defines what amount of drug or alcohol intake will provide the same effect as the last use. With each subsequent use, more intake (amount or strength) may be required to reach the same effect (buzz). In a recent survey by Marist Poll and Yahoo News, 44 percent of their participants said they were currently using marijuana. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that in 2015, 10.1 percent of Americans aged 12 years and older used illicit drugs, and with the increasing numbers of opioid use since then, today’s number is probably higher.

Know the Signs of Addiction Creep

Imagine yourself sitting in a community center, surrounded by 1000 other people, strangers, all attending a special forum. On the facility stage are experts on drug and alcohol addiction. They know what it takes to increase one’s likelihood for the disease of addiction. What they don’t know for sure is:
  • who in this group has chosen or will choose to recreationally use drugs or alcohol
  • who in this group, that does use recreationally, will experience addiction creep
  • who in this group, after experiencing addiction creep, will manifest drug or alcohol addiction
In a nutshell, addiction creep can only happen if you elect to start recreational use of a substance. Whether a specific U.S. State supports recreational use is irrelevant to how the drug affects you. Addiction creep is real, just ask an addict. If you take part in recreational drug use, consider the following list of characteristics, precursors to addiction. You may want to gather your friends around and go through the list together.

Signs of Addiction Creep

Use these signs as markers for addiction creep. If you possess two or more signs consistently over this year (12-month period), it might be time to seek counseling and/or an addiction treatment recovery program.
  1. Wanting to stop drug or alcohol use but cannot
  2. Increasing amounts and/or frequency of use
  3. Cravings for drugs or alcohol
  4. Focusing more time, energy and socialization around use
  5. Missed obligations due to use or ill-health after use
  6. Noticeable withdrawal symptoms in between use

Does Addiction Creep Happen to Everyone?

For some, that have no environmental or genetic factors that provide a predisposition to addiction, drug or alcohol abuse may never be an issue. Though times have changed. The chemical makeup of drugs is stronger and more dangerous than it used to be. For the unsuspecting, just one use of a synthetic opioid, for example, could prove to be not only addictive but fatal.

Addiction Creep Can Be Stopped

Sobriety is not a necessary way of life for all. For those with addictive tendencies, substance abuse disorder diagnosis or predisposition to alcohol or drug addiction, sobriety is essential to lifelong wellness. The obvious solution in avoiding addiction creep is to avoid drug or alcohol use. Oh, the power of NO. If you’ve already been through a treatment and recovery program, and are in relapse – addiction creep happens swiftly. Continuing a successful path through sobriety is the only option. For those using on a recreational level, refer to the Signs of Addiction Creep (above) each month as a self-check for yourself or others you know who might be at risk. With healthy balance, self-control and the support of friends and family, addiction creep can be stopped before it ever starts.

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