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Methamphetamine: Implications for the Dental Team

Course Number: 332

Stages of Addiction

Addiction to methamphetamine and other drugs is a multifaceted phenomenon, varying with the individual’s level of use and the dysfunction experienced as a result of that use. The stages of addiction are listed below.15

Experimental Use – is the use of meth at any time for experimentation. While this use may not appear to be abusive, even a single use of a drug can result in substantial harm to self or others. Examples are the use of meth while pregnant or driving. Children may be injured if left alone while a parent is under the influence. If this use continues or serves as a gateway to other drugs, patterns of abuse may develop. Since the high experienced with meth use, especially the first use, is so intense, many education programs focus on the ‘not even once’ message because of the strong potential for increased use or addiction.

Social Use – is the use of meth in social situations or for social reasons. If this use causes harm to self or others, it is considered abuse. Social use of meth often leads to further and elevated use.

Abuse – is problem or risky use. It is a pattern of use in which the user consumes the substance in amounts or with methods which are harmful. Harm may be to self or others. Meth abuse interferes with health, occupational and social functioning. Abuse can occur without progressing to addiction.

Addiction – is a chronic, potentially fatal, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences to the individual and others. Recovery may be increasingly difficult as addiction progresses. Physical withdrawal symptoms occur when the drug is withdrawn.

  • Behaviors Associated with Addiction

    • Obsession with the drug

    • Controlling of others but lack self-control

    • Manipulative

    • Preoccupation with obtaining the drug

    • Compulsive use in spite of adverse consequences

    • Relapse following periods of absence

    • Hides or denies drug use and destructive behavior

    • Blackouts

    • Depression

  • Risk Factors for Addiction

    • Family history of substance abuse

    • Early onset of substance use

    • Binge drinking - a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to at least 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men are consumed within approximately 2 hours.

    • Environmental/peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, stress