University Human Resource Services

Stages of Alcohol Dependency Characteristic Behaviors

Original Usage. The chemical is used, not necessarily to "feel good," but simply because "others are doing it." The user then discovers that it feels good and may continue using it. Continued use may lead to the next sign.

Preoccupation. Possibly as part of one's awareness, but possibly not, an intense desire for the chemical begins. A person begins to look forward to using the chemical because of the feelings the chemical induces. These feelings are obviously pleasant. Preoccupation gives rise to habitual action, and habit is the beginning of powerlessness over the use of chemicals.

Increased Tolerance. Some individuals demonstrate an ability to tolerate great amounts of alcohol over time though they achieve the same or lesser degree of "feeling good or high." Frequently, increased tolerance is misinterpreted as a sign of safety.

Rapid Intake. This action results from the awareness--either specific or vague--that tolerance is increasing, and that quicker delivery of the chemical is necessary. Generally, the person becomes more aware of the need for the chemical: "If I get it inside me more quickly, I'll feel better sooner."

Solitary Use. Using alone is far removed from what is commonly understood as a "social use." Solitary use occurs out of a person's need to continue the "good feeling," decrease tensions, medicate anxiety, and for whatever other reasons people use chemicals. The desire for the chemical (mentioned above in #2 Preoccupations) intensifies. Companionship with the chemical begins to substitute for companionship with people in a social setting. People are avoided--even loved ones--in favor of opportunities to use the chemical.

Self-Medication. Reliance on the chemical to adjust one's feelings to the discomforting demands of a given situation is self-medication. For example, just as many people take an aspirin for a headache, some people use chemicals to ease the uncomfortable feelings. ("I need a drink or drug to get through this situation.")

Protecting Supply. Using the chemical becomes so important to some persons that he or she needs to ensure the chemical is available whenever he or she feels the need for it. Even though he or she might not be using the chemical at the time, the absence of instant availability itself causes discomfort. Thus, a user makes sure there is always a supply on hand.