One of the most insidious things about addiction is how gradually it develops. Most people become addicted to drugs and alcohol long before they realize that they have a problem. Everyone experiences addiction differently, but the process often follows a pattern that can be broken down into stages. While we will always recommend finding a drug and alcohol treatment program if you suspect that you have a problem, knowing the stages of addiction is still helpful. With that being said, here’s what you can expect from each of the seven stages.
The first stage of addiction is initiation. This is when you try a substance for the first time, usually out of curiosity. Taking a drug once or twice doesn’t always result in addiction. In many cases, a person might try a drug to satisfy their curiosity and have little desire to try it again. On the other hand, if a drug is readily available and you have a desire to keep using it, you might find yourself in the second stage of addiction.
At the experimentation stage, you’ve moved beyond simply trying a substance out of curiosity and have started using it in certain situations to see what happens. For most people, this is tied to social activities such as partying or relaxing after a day of work. During this stage, you’re still making a conscious decision to use a drug; you aren’t dependent on it yet, and you can decide to quit if you want to.
3. Regular Use
At this stage, you will stop using your drug of choice periodically and start using it regularly. This doesn’t mean that you’ll use it every day, but there will be a pattern to your usage. If you’re a social user, you might start using alone. There is still no addiction at this point, but you might start to develop a mental reliance on your drug use.
4. Risky Use
At stage 4, your drug use will begin to have a negative impact on your life and be more noticeable to others. Showing up for work or other events drunk, high, or hungover will be common, you’ll start to lose interest in older hobbies, and you might neglect other responsibilities in your life in favor of your drug use.
Once you reach this stage, you’ll no longer be taking drugs recreationally. You’ll be physically and/or psychologically dependent on the drug to the point where you will feel seriously ill if you were to stop. If your addiction is psychological, you might believe that you need to keep taking it to function as a normal person. This is often the case with addictive prescription drugs such as opiates.
Addiction and dependence are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two. If you are dependent on a drug, you can still make the conscious decision to stop using it. You might suffer horrible withdrawal symptoms, but you can still choose to stop. When you are addicted, you can’t choose to stop using if you wanted to. You feel like you can’t live without your drug of choice, and the behaviors that began back in stage 4 are taken to extremes. Users who reach this stage may also be so out of touch with their old lives that they don’t realize how much their behavior is affecting others.
Once you reach the crisis stage, your drug use has gotten so far out of control that you are in danger of overdosing or otherwise seriously hurting yourself. This is the breaking point for most people. Their lives are in very real danger, and they need to either seek treatment or die. The process of becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol is a slow one, and almost everyone becomes an addict before they realize they have a problem.
Whether you notice the signs of addiction in yourself or in a loved one, know that there is help available. Contact our treatment center at 833-610-1174 at any time for advice or to find out more about our rehab programs.