Experimentation is broadly considered the first stage of addiction. While not all people who spend time experimenting with drugs or alcohol will become addicted, many teenagers and young adults do not realize that this process can be a slippery slope. Young people who exhibit certain risk factors for addiction should be cautious, and their family members should be on the lookout for signs that experimenting has turned into addiction.
Why Do People Begin Experimenting?
People experiment with drugs and alcohol for different reasons, both social and personal. Some, particularly those who are in vulnerable stages of life, may be offered substances by their friends at social gatherings like parties. Peer pressure is a contributing factor for adolescent substance abuse; while a teen may not ever intend to drink or drug, spending time with adolescents who do can result in experimenting with alcohol or drugs.
Some individuals, on the other hand, simply want to know what drinking or using feels like. They may want to destress, improve their performance in work or school, or take part in different experiences. They may try taking Adderall or other prescription stimulants because they think it will help them to succeed academically. Others may take LSD, psilocybin, or other hallucinogens because they are curious about the experience. Unfortunately, continued use of any mind-altering substance can significantly impact the body and mind.
Signs That You’ve Gone Too Far
The three main signs of addiction are cravings, withdrawal and tolerance.
Cravings are when you think about or want to have your substance of choice more and more often. These feelings may be unexpected and powerful, and they may occur at specific settings (parties or bars) or at random, inappropriate times. Cravings can indicate that the experimentation phase is ending, and that chemical dependency is beginning.
Withdrawal happens when your body has adjusted to a certain amount of the substance. Prolonged use of drugs or alcohol rewires the brain’s reward system. As such, it compensates by producing less of your usual neurotransmitters (ex: dopamine). This means that you will feel “under the weather” until taking your next drink or dose. As an addiction worsens, so do the withdrawal symptoms.
Tolerance also occurs as the body acclimates to a certain level of the drug or drink in your daily life. As you drink or use more often, you will find that it takes more and more of a substance to achieve the same effect. This phenomenon is known as tolerance, and it is a sign that you have moved from experimenting to addiction.
There is Hope
At Beach House, we offer fully comprehensive addiction treatment along the full continuum of care: from detox to residential treatment to aftercare services. We know that no one begins using substances with the goal of becoming addicted. Our compassionate staff members will be with you every step of the way as you address your history of substance use and find freedom from addiction.
To learn more about our residential and outpatient addiction treatment programs in Juno Beach, Flordia, contact Beach House today.