Identifying The Patterns of Addiction

There are many factors that contribute to drug and alcohol abuse. And despite the individual motivations that may exist, the dependence on chemical substances can develop and progress in a variety of ways. These progressions are dependent on the substance being abused and the personal reaction to the chemical. It is important to understand that all drugs, including alcohol, produce physical, mental, and emotional effects on the body.

Typically, one-time use of a chemical substance does not result in dependence or addiction. Many addicts experience these as patterns in the development or maintenance of an addiction:

First Use

The first sign of dependency may include the development of a regular use or first exposure. For instance, a person prescribed prescription medication by a physician may begin to increase the dosage on their own or shorten the time between doses. There is also likely to be physical markers of the pattern that can include bloodshot eyes, weight loss, needle marks, and others. These markers will depend on the substance being abused.

Reckless Behavior

Risky drug use, like combining two drugs to increase the narcotic effects, is another sign of possible addiction. A person that combines drugs greatly increase their chances of experiencing a fatal overdose. The human body was not meant to handle the toxicity of dangerous chemicals and to indulge in two or more dangerous chemicals at once is extremely risky behavior.

Other examples of reckless chemical abuse can include drinking and driving, more frequent drug use, getting into fights, and other examples of a life that is spiraling out of control.


An individual that uses a chemical substance over a period of time may discover they need more of the substance to experience the desired effects. In addition to ingesting more of the chemical, they may begin to experiment with other substances that promise stronger or different effects.

An increased tolerance* level is a sign of big trouble both physically and emotionally. The brain has been altered at this point and it may become increasingly more difficult to go a day or more without using the substance.


Individuals who have developed a dependence on drugs or alcohol need the substance frequently and increase their dosage to maintain the high they crave. Another obstacle faced by users who reach the dependence stage of addictions is withdrawal symptoms. The symptoms of withdrawal make life miserable for the addict when they attempt to abstain from their drug of choice.

Common withdrawal symptoms are anxiety, depression, insomnia, and stomach cramps. Many addicts find it easier to use the substance than fight withdrawal symptoms.


Full blown disorder is often the final and most destructive stage of substance abuse. This is also a stage where the most damage is done to the lives of friends and family. There are many negative behaviors associated with substance abuse disorder that include:

  • Failure to maintain work or school responsibilities.
  • Stealing.
  • Lying.
  • Criminal behavior.
  • Homelessness.
  • Inability to maintain productive relationships.

Substance abuse disorder is a life-threatening stage of addiction and many more negative behaviors may be exhibited. This period in an addicts life causes feelings of despair and hopelessness that result in increased isolation and feelings of desperation.

Escape From The Cycle

Despite the difficulties facing anyone experiencing any of these patterns of addiction, recovery from their addiction is possible. More than likely, professional help will be needed for persons who have reached advanced stages of addiction. Fortunately, a wide range of options exists for individuals seeking the rehab and therapy services they need

* Source: Drug Tolerance