The Transition from Recreational Use to Abuse: What You Need to Know

Man transitioning from recreational use to abuse; how to spot the difference.In many situations, friends and family are unaware that their loved one is struggling with substances until a full-blown addiction has developed. It’s hard to tell what others are doing when we’re going about our daily lives – but the small moments you experience with your loved one could give major tells as to whether they abuse substances or not. It’s not that our loved ones have purposefully become addicted; all too often, it stems from recreational use.

Recreational use often begins as a person uses drugs for pleasure rather than for medical reasons or addiction. It can start off with drinking after hours with coworkers, going out on the weekends with friends or other ways, but eventually it comes to a point when that person has adapted their recreational use into their routines more frequently than they did before. In the recreational stage, most people consider it a “normal” hobby or way to socialize rather than a problem.

Once a person begins using substances heavily and/or for a long period of time, it may become more and more difficult to control one’s use. Dependency occurs in 2 phases:

Physical dependency: withdrawal symptoms occur, such as nausea, sweatiness, vomiting, fatigue and more if the drug use has ceased.

Psychological dependency: anxiety, depression, cravings, appetite loss, denial and more may occur regarding use if a person stops using their drug of choice.

The book, Substance Use and Abuse: 2nd Edition: Everything Matters, emphasizes that psychological dependency can often last far longer than physical dependency, and can often be the resulting factor in a person’s developed addiction. Social factors, such as routinely seeing people whom your loved one has used substances with, can only serve to reinforce the urge to use substances and, if they keep psychological symptoms at bay, it may feel like an only option for some.

Watch out for warning signs that your loved one is addicted; if you’re finding that they’ve been lying about their substance use or distancing themselves from their typical social group, you may want to inquire further. Your loved one may need your help – and recovery could potentially save their life.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.