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James Burke, Chairman of the Partnership for Drug-Free America, indicated that the average drug abuser is white, and he or she is in the work force 70 percent of drug abusers are employed...that's about 10 million people. Drug abuse is among us daily, and St. Petersburg Junior College compiled this list of common signs that may indicate such abuse.

  1. Tardiness, truancy, declining grades
  2. Loss of motivation, energy, self-discipline, interest in activities
  3. Forgetfulness, short - or long-term
  4. Short attention span, trouble concentrating
  5. Aggressive anger, hostility, irritability
  6. Sullen, uncaring attitudes and behavior
  7. Disappearance of money, valuables
  8. Changes in friends, elusiveness about new friends
  9. Unhealthy appearance, bloodshot eyes
  10. Changes in personal dress or grooming
  11. Trouble with the law or authority
  12. Use of room deodorizers, incense
  13. Rock group- or drug-related graphics and slogans
  14. Pipes, small boxes or containers, baggies, rolling papers or other unusual items
  15. Peculiar odors or butts, seeds, leaves in ashtrays, clothing or pockets.

Phases of Chemical Use

In its Drug Decision Directory, St. Leo College described the phases of chemical use and abuse. An adapted form appears here.

Phase 1: Experimental Use

During experimental use, the user experiences the mood swing, which makes one feel good and can control moods. The user learns through experience to control moods through use and begins to trust that the chemical can reliably deliver a desired effect. The user in this phase can return to feeling normal. The user may never leave this experimental phase user does not seek out the chemical on his/her own, may become a non-user.

*** Most users continue to second phase.***

Phase 2: Social/Recreational Use

During this phase, the user seeks mood swings and anticipates and plans use. S/he associates the chemical with good times, fun and relaxation. Use may occur in the company of peers, and the user does not get upset when the chemical is not present. S/he can still control the amount of use and the resulting mood, and behavior is generally appropriate during use. On rare occasions, the user may misuse and learn from the experience.

***Most chemical users stay in the social phase, but some users continue on to the third phase.***

Phase 3: Harmful Abuse - Harmful Dependency

During this phase, a number of harmful consequences occur, including:

  1. Changing lifestyle, which is typified by
    • chemical means more to user than family, friends, etc.
    • pre-occupation with use of chemical
    • rigid about time and place of use
    • broken promises
    • ingenuity about getting, keeping and using the chemical
  2. Trouble follows use of chemical, which may include
    • disciplinary action
    • DUI
    • traffic violations
    • promiscuity
    • Behavior versus values: As drug taking increases, the frequency of breaking normally accepted rules increases.
  3. Tolerance develops:
    • takes more to get the same effect
    • doesn't feel any higher or drunker - but is
    • highs aren't as high anymore
    • easy to overdose

Harmful Abuse: Chemical use interferes in important areas of the user's life, so the user changes the use or quits to stop the interference. Or, the abuser suffers harmful consequences from chemical use and changes the use or quits so that the consequences will stop. The abuser changes the chemical use to accommodate the lifestyle. I didn't like what it was doing to me, so I quit.

Harmful Dependency: Chemical use interferes in an important area of the abuser's life, but the abuser continues to use in the same way. Abuser suffers harmful consequences from chemical use and increasing pain. The abuser changes lifestyle to accommodate the chemical use.

Phase 4: Dependent Use

During this phase, the user uses to feel normal and is always in emotional pain (although it may not be visible). S/he medicates the pain, and the chemical becomes the only true friend. The user believes that the chemical is the reason that s/he is making it and experiences loss of control, loss of choice and loss of self-worth. S/he tries repeatedly to quit using the chemical and to change life style, but can't.

Helpful Links for Additional Information