Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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St. Joseph's Care Group

Youth Addiction Programs

Signs, Symptoms & Effects

When does it become a problem?

1 2 3
  • Experimentation motivated by curiosity.
  • Uses only when offered - can easily refuse.
  • Recreational use - mainly weekends.
  • Buying drugs.
  • Increased cravings.
  • Onset of using a coping mechanism.
  • Increased quantity & frequency.
  • Change in leisure activities.
  • Experimenting with other drugs.
  • Short of money
  • Attempts to stop or reduce.
  • Mood swings.
  • Intense cravings.
  • Tolerance develops - use increase.
  • Using in the morning.
  • Relationship difficulties.
  • Disturbed sleep.
  • Poor nutrition health problems.
  • Withdrawal symptoms.
  • Loss of employment.
  • Financial problems.
  • Experiences Paranoia.
  • Impaired thinking/ memory.
  • Begins to sell drugs.
  • Legal involvement.
  • Loss of family & friends.
  • Hospitalization.
  • Increased health problems.
  • Suicidal ideation.
  • Loss of home.
  • Life continues in a state of crisis...
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Do I have a problem?

Stages Symptoms
Non user
  • Never used a particular drug
  • Has tried a substance once or a few times. Use is motivated by curiosity about the drug effect.
  • Has tried a substance once or a few times. Use is motivated by curiosity about the drug effect.
Irregular Use
  • Use is infrequent and irregular, usually confirmed to special occasions (holidays, birthdays, etc) or when opportunities present themselves. Usually with friends, thoughts are not pre-occupied with use..
Regular Use
  • Use has a predictable pattern which may entail frequent or infrequent use (not just a recreational activity or weekends) Thoughts become pre-occupied. Negative consequences in one or more life areas.
Dependent Use
  • Use is regular and predictable and usually frequent. Physical addiction is possible. Psychological dependence may be present (feels a need to have the substance). Knows there s a problem but continues to use.


Stages of Addiction

Stages Symptoms
Stage 1
  • Experimenting with drug use.
  • Have little knowledge and usually a lot of misinformation.
  • Opinions are not well formed.
  • Unaware of the possible consequences.
  • Many youth experiment with drugs.
Stage 2
  • Seeking the mood swing.
  • Some youth decide to quit (don't like the experience) liked the temporary relief from worry and anxiety were able to be more talkative become more popular.
  • To make real friends they had to be themselves, to make drug friends, they just needed money.
  • Money - at first easy to get, kids share their money, some steal, some sell or trade belongings and will even trade sex.
  • Fronting drugs: taking various quantities of drugs away on the promise to bring money at a pre-arranged time/date.
Stage 3
  • Harmful involvement.
  • Preoccupation with drugs
  • May be attending school but not for the right reason (dealing), socialization only.
  • Absences are mounting, grades are dropping.
  • Blaming others for their actions and want others to make excuses for them.
  • Psychological dependence forming.
  • Binge use patterns.
  • Using pattern saturated with planning to use and using.
Stage 4
  • Chemical Dependency
  • Totally preoccupied with drugs and their lives have become unmanageable
  • May be hitting bottom and depression has become their way of life
  • Health may be suffering
  • May despair that they can't get off drugs
  • May have thoughts of suicide
  • All family members are affected by the addiction in some way
  • May decide to leave home
  • Parents may become authoritarian and punitive but do not know how to reach the youth
  • Requires professional help to make changes to using pattern


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