CONTINUUM OF SUBSTANCE USE:
NON-USE — EXPERIMENTAL — SOCIAL — HARMFUL — DEPENDENCE
Non-Use – self explanatory. Either prior to onset of use, or a choice to not use substances for one reason or another.
Experimental Use – Usually done out of curiosity. The experience is evaluated and user may or may not continue to use. High level of choice involved at this stage.
Social (Occasional) Use – Use that occurs without incurring problems. High degree of choice involved whether or not to use.
Harmful Use – User may begin to experience occasional heavy intoxication that may cause harm to an aspect of self or another’s. life, or puts self or other at risk (i.e. driving while intoxicated or hungover). Regular use pattern (routine or binges) may start to emerge and/or amount may increase. Level of choice about whether and when to use is decreasing.
Dependence – Characterized by physical symptoms of craving, tolerance and withdrawal. Problems may be evident in many life areas, resulting from excessive use. Substance use is continued despite an increase in problems associated with use. A person’s life may be becoming more centered around acquiring and using drugs; other activities and involvements may become unimportant. There is little or no choice left about whether or not to use, and it is very difficult to stop using the substance. Dependence may be physiological or psychological or a combination of both.