The Substance Abuse Spectrum

subUseSpectrum

It’s really important that we understand substance use as a spectrum.  On one side is no use at all; while on the other side is full-blown addiction.  In between the two ends are progressive stages of substance use that become marked by the level of problems the user experiences as a result of the substance use.  The reason for the emphasis is that, in order to disrupt the progression, treatment providers (or friends and family) must develop awareness in the substance user of the association between the substance use and the experienced problems.

To me, non-use and moderate, non-problematic use is relatively easy to understand.  If a person doesn’t use substances or does so moderately, that person probably won’t experience too many problems.  However, as substance use increases, so then do the problems.  Although there are people who can use a substance rather heavily, they still may not experience too many health and/or social problems.  I would argue, however, that continued heavy use will lead to problems that begin as moderate but then escalate towards serious health problems and eventual addiction.

Two adverse consequences that indicate full-blown addiction (as a reminder addiction is marked by the three (3) C’s: Control, Consequences, and Compulsion) are tolerance and withdrawal upon stopping use.  Tolerance is the need to increase substance use to attain desired results.  Withdrawal is a set of physical symptoms that emerge when the used substance is no longer present within the body.

For example, withdrawal from opiates in marked by chills, diarrhea, sever body aches and pains, anxiety and/or depression, and nausea.  Opiate users must maintain opiate levels within their bodies such that they do not withdraw.

When we understand substance use as a spectrum, we can eliminate the “either/or” mentality towards substance use.  That is, not all people who use substances are addicted to them.  Also, there are levels of functioning that must also be taken into account when looking at substance use.  Substance use and addiction is a topic that must be viewed with a wide lens such that we can eliminate judgment and shame from an already complex issue.

  1. After years of searching for the answers to the problem of Addiction, I have found an author who actually has found the Truth with a capital T concerning addiction. Your holistic approach and conviction of truth has brought such relief to me. You are truly inspired and inspiring! I have searched and searched. After finding no literature even close to the caliber of yours, I felt an urgency to hurry up and figure out this addiction thing, so that I could begin writing about the truths I’ve found along the way. I couldn’t find them anywhere on the internet, so I was just chugging along, tired and frustrated, but determined to find the truth and share it with others. I am still not clean and sober. I am SO glad to have found your words Mr. Blea! You’ve already done the legwork, and I can breathe a sigh of relief and focus on my own healing with the guidance of a sober, well-educated, spirit inspired author. I know the truth when I see it. And several truths you espouse I have found on my own. Your words are a light onto my path upwards, along with the Bible and my own journaling. Thanks for doing what you do! Keep up the great work! 🙂

    1. Wow, I don’t what else to say except for thank you! I really appreciate your message — you’re in my thoughts and prayers and my you be blessed with Light and Love!

  2. After years of searching for the answers to the problem of Addiction, I have found an author who actually has found the Truth with a capital T concerning addiction. Your holistic approach and conviction of truth has brought such relief to me. You are truly inspired and inspiring! I have searched and searched. After finding no literature even close to the caliber of yours, I felt an urgency to hurry up and figure out this addiction thing, so that I could begin writing about the truths I’ve found along the way. I couldn’t find them anywhere on the internet, so I was just chugging along, tired and frustrated, but determined to find the truth and share it with others. I am still not clean and sober. I am SO glad to have found your words Mr. Blea! You’ve already done the legwork, and I can breathe a sigh of relief and focus on my own healing with the guidance of a sober, well-educated, spirit inspired author. I know the truth when I see it. And several truths you espouse I have found on my own. Your words are a light onto my path upwards, along with the Bible and my own journaling. Thanks for doing what you do! Keep up the great work! 🙂

    1. Wow, I don’t what else to say except for thank you! I really appreciate your message — you’re in my thoughts and prayers and my you be blessed with Light and Love!

  3. Thank you for the response! I’ve been pursuing sobriety and happiness doggedly for years now. I have not been a slacker! I have poured over thousands of pages. (If you could only see my Kindle reading list, internet history, along with physical books read you would understand). I don’t watch television. I have written to the point of experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome. Throughout everything, I have maintained faith. And I do not exaggerate when I say that reading your words felt like a sort of culmination or pinnacle for my studies. I have had a really positive and productive period of time since I wrote my comment to your blog. I am by no means downplaying the legwork I have put in towards working my way through to sobriety when I say that the article after article I consumed from your site all felt perfectly timed and placed in my life, and really helped to pull me from a swirling pit of shame. You helped to tie so many things together for me. I’m really so happy. I have felt myself at the mercy of “The Addict” before. I have felt despair. And I chose to believe that if I could summon a grain of faith, that there was something in my future to justify hope and life. I know that one day, I will see how all of this suffering was necessary for something strong and true in my life, although it is all still cloudy to me now. (And I’m sure it won’t all ever be perfectly clear…cut and dried). Thank you for having such compassion for the addicted. I only wish that everyone could understand addiction and, more importantly, the addicted, in the way that you do. If you ever want any input, feedback, or insight into the mind of someone still struggling with addiction, feel free to contact me. (I gather you have plenty of experience working with those struggling with addiction). However, I do want to offer myself as a supporter, and, well, just…anything that could help your work. My contact information can be found at http://www.pineygrovekennels.com . I haven’t written more than two or three comments like this online, and it’s really neat to get to experience the response of an admired author in this way! Thanks again! … Sincerely, Mama Mandy

  4. Thank you for the response! I’ve been pursuing sobriety and happiness doggedly for years now. I have not been a slacker! I have poured over thousands of pages. (If you could only see my Kindle reading list, internet history, along with physical books read you would understand). I don’t watch television. I have written to the point of experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome. Throughout everything, I have maintained faith. And I do not exaggerate when I say that reading your words felt like a sort of culmination or pinnacle for my studies. I have had a really positive and productive period of time since I wrote my comment to your blog. I am by no means downplaying the legwork I have put in towards working my way through to sobriety when I say that the article after article I consumed from your site all felt perfectly timed and placed in my life, and really helped to pull me from a swirling pit of shame. You helped to tie so many things together for me. I’m really so happy. I have felt myself at the mercy of “The Addict” before. I have felt despair. And I chose to believe that if I could summon a grain of faith, that there was something in my future to justify hope and life. I know that one day, I will see how all of this suffering was necessary for something strong and true in my life, although it is all still cloudy to me now. (And I’m sure it won’t all ever be perfectly clear…cut and dried). Thank you for having such compassion for the addicted. I only wish that everyone could understand addiction and, more importantly, the addicted, in the way that you do. If you ever want any input, feedback, or insight into the mind of someone still struggling with addiction, feel free to contact me. (I gather you have plenty of experience working with those struggling with addiction). However, I do want to offer myself as a supporter, and, well, just…anything that could help your work. My contact information can be found at http://www.pineygrovekennels.com . I haven’t written more than two or three comments like this online, and it’s really neat to get to experience the response of an admired author in this way! Thanks again! … Sincerely, Mama Mandy