The Slippery Slope of Substance Abuse

Why Substance Abuse Can Quickly Lead to Addiction

If you struggle with substance abuse, you’ve probably heard it called a “slippery slope,” but it may not be clear what that means for you, your treatment, and your recovery. 

I’m hopeful that sharing what I’ve learned through talking with many people who have substance abuse issues can help you sort through your challenges and find a supportive way forward. 

Why Substance Abuse is a Slippery Slope

Substance abuse is different from addiction, although the two are closely connected. If you’re using drugs, alcohol, or other addictive substances to self-soothe or self-medicate, it can develop into addiction quickly, even if you don’t think you will become addicted and even feel like you’re making an effort not to. 

That’s because there are a number of other factors that influence addiction, beyond personal commitments or preferences. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • The sooner you start using a drug or addictive substance, the more likely an addiction will develop. 
  • If you have access to drugs for a longer period of time, they will be easier to use, and you’ll be more likely to use them more frequently.
  • The stronger or “harder” a drug is, the more likely a dangerous addiction will develop more quickly, and it will be more difficult to break free from. 
  • If you have existing mental health issues, you are more prone to developing an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or other unhealthy substances, especially if you are already using them to self-soothe.
  • Childhood trauma, including a family history of addiction, could definitely play a role in shifting a substance abuse issue into addiction.
  • Because body makeup and genetics can play a role, it’s very risky to use any drugs or addictive substances casually, since how and when it becomes addictive can be very unpredictable.
  • Drug and substance use itself can make avoiding addiction difficult, since using drugs and alcohol impairs judgment and perception.

(Adopted from DARA Thailand)
If any of these factors are part of your life, it’s important to get help with substance use and abuse before it becomes an addiction. 

There is Hope for People with Substance Abuse

I know it can be intimidating and scary to think about your substance abuse struggles as an addiction. But no matter where you are in your experience with drugs or other harmful substances, there are people who can help, and there’s hope for your healing and recovery.

It’s important to remember that God loves us unconditionally, no matter what we struggle with, and He will forgive and strengthen you as you make an effort to grow and heal. 

There are lots of dedicated organizations that help people with substance abuse, and they have a variety of expertise and unique experience to help bolster you for the recovery journey.

And you have our support, too. TheHopeLine has lots of free resources, like ebooks, podcasts, and radio shows, that have helped many people work through substance abuse and break free from addictive behaviors. 

If you need one-on-one support, our HopeCoaches can offer mentoring to support you without judgment. If you’re ready to get help, talk to a HopeCoach today. We are here to listen, and we believe you will find hope and healing. 

Recovering from addiction will not be an identical journey for everyone. No matter your unique story, here are a few "first steps" to recovery that are likely to help you feel more confident breaking free from addiction. 

Dawson McAllister
Dawson McAllister, also known as America's youth pastor, was an author, radio host, speaker, and founder of TheHopeLine. McAllister attended Bethel College in Minnesota for undergraduate work where he graduated in 1968, began graduate studies at Talbot School of Theology in California, and received an honorary doctorate from Biola University.
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