There are five distinct stages of drug abuse. The first stage is described as access to drugs but no use thereof. Teens are just curious about drug use; they may ask questions or ask to join those using drugs. They willingly listen to stories about the effects of drugs. They watch others obtaining drugs or using them.
In this stage, minimizing the risk factors that make a teenager more vulnerable to using drugs are an issue. Prevention is the key element here where parents take on the lead role in ensuring the well-being of their teens.
The second stage of drug use ranges from experimentation or occasional use to regular weekly use of substances. The users experiment with drugs and discover the effects. This is usually social, recreational use carried out as part of a group, usually on weekends. This stage is critical because it may pave the way for the third stage which is characterized by the youth progressing to further increasing the frequency of using one or more drugs on a regular basis. Now the drug user has discovered the “benefits” of using drugs. Perhaps they alleviate boredom or anxiety. Problems and stresses may seem to disappear. Girls or women may use stimulants for weight loss and males may use steroids for appearance enhancement. When the positive effects outweigh the risks or any negative effects, these individuals may become regular users. This stage may also include the teenager either buying, stealing, or drug dealing to get drugs.
In the fourth stage, adolescents have established regular usage, have become preoccupied with getting intoxicated (“high”), and have developed problems in their social, educational, vocational, or family life as a result of using the substance.
The final and most serious stage of drug use is defined by the youth only feeling “normal” when they are using. They are now certified drug addicts. During this stage, risk-taking behaviors like stealing, drug dealing, engaging in physical fights, unprotected sex, or driving while intoxicated increase and they become most vulnerable to having suicidal or homicidal thoughts.