A person doesn't usually go from abstinence to addiction. There is typically a progression of increased usage ending in dependency. These stages can be labeled as: Use, Misuse, Abuse and Addiction.
- When drugs or alcohol are ingested without experiencing any negative consequences it can be considered use. For example, a person in a social setting consumes alcohol responsibly and is given a ride home by a sober friend. This is considered use.
- If negative consequences are the result of drug or alcohol consumption it is a sign of misuse. For example, the person goes to the social setting, drinks too much and gets a DUI while driving home. He may not have a problem with alcohol, but he didn't behave responsibly. This is considered misuse.
- It can be considered abuse if, in spite of negative consequences, a person continues to consume drugs or alcohol. Look again at our party goer who got the DUI, a person not prone to abuse would not repeat the behavior that got him into trouble. If he, however, continues to drink and drive, this would be considered abuse.
- If a person compulsively uses drugs or alcohol in spite of repeated negative consequences the person is considered addicted. For example, our friend has received two DUIs in a year and will be sent to jail if he is caught using drugs or alcohol, yet continues to drink. This person is clearly addicted because the negative consequences of his drinking did not deter his decision to consume.