Module 5: young people, society and AOD: facilitator's guide

3.2 Types of AOD use – Schaeffer's model

Page last updated: 2004

Schaeffer's model
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Case study - Roberto and Julian

Schaeffer's model

Schaeffer outlined five distinct patterns of AOD use:
  • experimental
  • recreational/social
  • situational
  • intensive
  • compulsive.
Schaeffer has developed a model to describe patterns of drug use (see Diagram).

The concept acknowledges that most people use drugs in an experimental or recreational manner.

This is particularly true for young people who often experiment with various substances as part of their growing up.

Recreational drug use is more about:
  • curiosity
  • rebellion
  • being social
  • having fun
  • relaxing
  • confidence
  • the physical sensations of the drug
Intensive and particularly compulsive drug use on the other hand, is more about:
  • reducing a sense of alienation
  • identity formation
  • self-medication
  • relieving emotional distress
  • improved self-regulation (soothing your emotions)Top of page

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Diagram: Schaeffer's model - patterns of drug use

Text equivalent below for Diagram: Schaeffer's model - patterns of drug use

Text version of Diagram

Schaeffer's model is illustrated with an inverted triangle. Starting from the top, the patterns of drug use are:
  • Experimental - single or short-term use
  • Recreational/social - controlled use in social setting
  • Situational - use for specific reason
  • Intensive - high doses - binge
  • Compulsive - frequent/daily doses withdrawalTop of page

Case study - Roberto and Julian

Roberto and Julian are two 16-year-olds who spend most of their time together. On weekends, they like to party hard and they consume large amounts of alcohol (mainly spirits) every Saturday night. When there are no parties, they usually go to the beach to drink together. Julian usually drinks a lot more alcohol than Roberto, but for both of them, Sundays are spent recovering.

Roberto also uses a variety of substances to get him through the week. He claims that this helps him to cope with his parents and life in general. He does not see his drug or alcohol use as a problem and believes his life is under control.


Question - What are the differences in Roberto and Julian's AOD use? Which seems to have more of a problem? Why?

Question - Can Julian's alcohol use be described as purely recreational?