After the fun and games period, everything starts to get just a little more serious. This is called the “Regular Habit”, stage. Ever notice how a constant cigarette smoker will often inconvenience himself or others to be able to go out and have a cigarette? That is an addiction to cigarettes, and the same idea applies to drug and alcohol use. The fun and games stage is over at this point, and one has entered into a regular habit that is characterized by consistent and pretty predictable use of the drug or the alcohol.
The characteristic feature of substance abuse at this stage of the game is the presence of an actual dysfunction related to the person’s use of alcohol or other drugs. To put it more officially, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration describes the Regular Habit stage of substance abuse as:
“The use of a psychoactive drug to such an extent that its effects seriously interfere with health or occupational and social functioning. Regular Habit substance abuse may or may not involve physiologic dependence or tolerance. For example, use of substances in weekend binge patterns may not involve physiologic dependence; however, it may have adverse effects on a person’s and possibly others’ lives, and it is current, dependable, predictable substance abuse.”
This is the next degree of severity of substance abuse. This is an actual chemical dependency when a person’s body has become so reliant upon drugs and alcohol that his or her body actually has developed a chemical dependence crisis with the substance. What this means is that the addiction has gotten to a point where the body of the addict has become so accustomed to having the addictive substance inside of it that it has actually altered itself to make room for it, and has now developed a reliance on it. This truly is the next step up in severity of the addiction, and is in and of itself a true addiction in the very sense of the word itself.
The next phase and what is often thought to be the final stage of addiction is mental, psychological, personal, and spiritual addiction itself. The characteristic feature of substance abuse at this point of chemical dependence is the presence of an inability to control their use of those very same substances despite the negative consequences that occur as a result of their abuses of them. Addiction may be a chronic, relapsing disorder and as the disease process progresses as it always will progress, recovery becomes increasingly difficult for the individual.
Mental addiction is the stage of the game where an addict needs the substance in his or her life even if it kills him, (which it often does). This is the final frontier of addiction. It will either cause the person to die from the habit, or they will beat the habit. But this truly is the end game move when it comes to addiction, as it is at this stage that the person is using the substance regularly and is addicted both physically and mentally.