Written By: Tara Javidan, LCPC, CADC
Partying, life of the party, FOMO, hammered, raging, wasted; all phrases that are synonymous with the party culture of young adults in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. The question is, where does the fun stop and the risk of addiction begin? Let’s look at some recent stats:
- According to the NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health), Approximately 14.5 million adults aged 26 or older struggled with a substance use disorder in 2014.
- One out of every eight people who suffered from a drug use disorder in 2014 struggled with both drugs and alcohol simultaneously (NSDUH).
- Over 900,000 American adults (over age 11) struggled with a cocaine use disorder in 2014 (NSDUH).
- In college students studied in 2010, the Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) found that alcohol was the number one substance this group received specialized treatment for, at 72 percent of those admitted to public substance abuse programs did so for an alcohol use disorder (marijuana was second at 55.7 percent and prescription drugs were third at 31.6 percent).
So what does this all mean?
It means that the line between social use and substance abuse is becoming more and blurry as the use of cocaine, marijuana, and prescription drugs has become more commonplace in the young adult social scene. According to NCADD (National Council of Alcoholism and Drug Dependence), alcohol is still the most abused addictive substance in America.
Chicago has a huge nightlife and music scene that in the summer even boasts music festivals that have party-goers who will travel to Chicago from around the country. Many young people don’t understand the long-term implications of their use. Abusing drugs or alcohol before the brain is fully developed, any time before a person’s mid-20s, may increase the risk for addiction later in life due to their potential influence on the still-developing brain, this is from the journal Clinical EEG and Neuroscience.
Let’s take a look at the line between social use and addiction. To do this, addictions specialists often will identify where someone stands on the addiction continuum.
Experimental use: usually done in high school, the substance is used once or twice and then is not continued.
Social use: most adult users fall in this category. This person is not using alone. Using is not in relation to self-medication. Use is controlled. This is not unmanageable. Done in moderation. Legal substances only. Minimal/no consequences of use. No established pattern of use.
Abuse: Binge use, tolerance, withdrawal, using alone. Misuse of RX meds falls into this category. Use is starting to interfere with functioning. Use is not as manageable. A person could be spending a lot of time recovering from using (hangovers, calling in sick to work, missing out on social time with family). Any use of an illicit substance falls into this category, meaning, there is no such thing as “socially” using cocaine or molly due to the potential consequences of even using just a few times.
Addiction/Dependence: User has lost control of their use and substances have become the main focus of life. Possible need for medical detox. High risk of health-related issues. Need for immediate gratification. Often unable to function without using. No longer using to get “high”, use is done so out of need.
Unfortunately, most people who meet the criteria for substance use disorders don’t even realize they have a problem, although often their loved ones do notice and don’t know how to address it. If this sounds like you, or someone you care about, there is SO much help out there. A person does not have to hit “rock bottom” in order to get the help of a certified alcohol and drug counselor (CADC). The earlier someone comes in the better and if you feel like you may be struggling have an evaluation is really easy. Below is a list of resources: