Four Stages Of Addiction

About the Four Stages of Addiction

In reality, very few people begin using abuse drugs with the express goal of becoming an addict. The path to addiction is different for each individual. Some can use experimentally for years without developing addictions, while others experience all four addiction stages in rapid succession. The truth about addiction to drugs and alcohol is multifaceted and appears to have physiological and psychological components, all of which contribute to individual thresholds.

The threshold between experimentation and dependency can be slight, and depending on individual factors, the transition from freedom to addiction can be quite sudden. The four stages of alcohol and drug addiction are the experimentation, regular/social use, substance abuse, and substance dependence. These four stages are widely accepted as patterns common to most addiction scenarios.

The Truth About Addiction Stages

The truth about these stages is that not all who use become addicted. Even those who have been in the first two stages will experience dependence that requires inpatient rehab. It has been observed that individuals that transition into abuse, stage three, are at a significantly higher risk of becoming an addict. Should you have more questions about these four stages, regarding yourself or a loved one, please reach out and speak to one of our counselors today.

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The Four Addiction Stages 

Stage One: Experimentation

Experimentation can have several motivating factors including peer pressure, social exposure, and entertainment. Sometimes individuals experiment as a way to gain relief from stress or as an escape from life circumstances. Whatever the reason, the use is always irregular and occasional, and does not usually disrupt an individual’s life with negative consequences such as legal or medical side effects. In this stage, the user is able to discontinue at any time without adverse side effects. It should be noted that any individual exposing themselves to illicit drugs and alcohol opens themselves to the real risk of developing habitual or daily use.

Stage Two: Regular Use

While using a drug or other addictive substance on a daily basis does not mean that full blown addiction will occur, the likelihood of dependence greatly increases when individuals begin dosing on a regular basis. For some who enter rehab as functioning addicts, daily use has become part of their everyday life. It is still possible to stop use at this point, the slippery slope into stage three is high. Most individuals in stage two are able to control how outsiders view their behavior and will make substantial effort to hide use. Unfortunately, individuals in stage two are often in denial about their use and continue to drive while under the influence or behave erratically.

Stage Three: Abuse

This stage is marked by a user’s continued drug and alcohol use regardless of negative outcomes and confrontations regarding use. This is the stage where an individual can become dangerous to themselves and others, as the ability to make appropriate choices is negated by drug seeking behaviors. There are quite a few symptoms of abuse including the following:

 

  • Cravings and Drug Seeking
  • Inability to live and work without substance
  • Driving under the influence
  • Secrecy
  • Hygiene and Self Care issues
  • Changes in appetite
  • Memory issues and Depression
  • Financial Difficulties stemming from the costs of using

Stage Four: Dependency

Once the user is dependent on substances to function, addiction is their new reality. The individual is now psychologically and physically bonded to their drug of choice. The disease of addiction is complex as our understanding of how brain health changes, we do know that the effects of long-term drug addiction can be permanent. A full-blown addict is damaging their organs each time they use, as dosages and timing no longer matter to them. Some of the signs and symptoms of addiction are:

 

  • Shocking decline in physical health
  • Severe interpersonal issues
  • Unemployment and vagrancy
  • Dementia and other brain diseases

 

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