The stages of addiction are representative of the process of developing a substance use disorder. First, experimentation, misuse, or accidental substance overuse initiates the process. Next, the body and mind are affected through continual usage. Finally, each timeline is different, but every individual’s process remains the same. The reality of addiction is often far from common perceptions and beliefs.
The 7 Stages of Addiction
An essential understanding of addiction comes from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), defining “addiction as a chronic brain disease that affects the brain’s reward, pleasure, memory, and motivation.” Therefore, it is essential for everyone involved to understand those with a substance use disorder have an illness. So, just as with any condition, the stages of addiction that occur throughout the progression of the disease are notable. Consequently, educating the support system concerning how addiction develops can be advantageous.
Addiction occurs with distinct stages: intensity, longevity, detox, treatment, relapse, and recovery are all individual factors. The stages of addiction can take weeks, months, or years to unfold. On the other hand, the illicit drug choice is possible. Many of those with a substance use disorder participate in the following stages:
- The initial or first-time use
- Experimentation with a substance
- Misuse or abuse of a substance
- Tolerance of the substance through risky usage
- Dependence builds
- A crisis occurs, and treatment begins
#1: Initial Substance Use
The initiation with first substance use carries no thoughts of becoming dependent or addicted. Instead, the stages of addiction begin with this benign and thoughtless act of trying something new for a good time. In addition, the first use can occur at any age or place, but NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) claims most people with a substance use disorder tried the chosen substance for the first time before age 18. Finally, those who used before 18 developed a substance use disorder by age 20.
Initially, the first use of a substance does not declare impending addiction. But, some try using substances out of curiosity. Common factors impact an individual’s decision to continue using a substance. However, a decision to continually abuse or misuse a substance can depend on many risk factors. Finally, the following risk factors could determine an escalation to stage two.
- A family history of addiction or mental health disorder
- History of a traumatic past, including abuse or neglect
- Dysfunctional or chaotic living environment
- Peers or other family members who find substance misuse or abuse acceptable
- Depression, social problems, and feelings of loneliness or isolation
The stages of addiction progress as usage increases. The user is not negatively affected by using the illicit substance. However, stress is a significant trigger to use after school, work, or a difficult situation has occurred. In addition, experimentation continues to determine how the substance impacts their life. Finally, in the second stage, much of the usage is connected to social action.
The second stage does not cause discomfort, cravings, or dependency. Moreover, experimentation is impulsive or becomes a chronic form of pleasure. In addition, the user consciously explores how the drug can make the user feel. Finally, dosages increase and use becomes more frequent.
#3: Regular Use
As the stages of addiction build, experimental use becomes normal behavior. The third stage includes using it regularly. Again, patterns develop with daily use. Finally, the illicit substance and the feelings it produces become the remedy for every discomfort, unease, stress, and unhappiness. This results in the removal of any social element.
With regular use in the third stage, the illicit substance negatively impacts the user’s life. For example, disrupted sleep makes the user late for work or school. As the stages of addiction continue, there is still no dependence, but a mental reliance begins to form. Subsequently, changes occur in the brain, and tolerance begins to build in the body.
#4: Use Becomes Risky
The fourth stage of addiction escalates into a high level of risk. Therefore, disruptions in lifestyle occur more often and negatively affect the user. In addition, the stages of addiction involve forming dependence. Therefore, lifestyle is negatively affected more frequently. Consequently, challenges occur in relationships, work, and life.
All relationships, family, friends, and co-workers recognize something is happening. However, the behavior of the user is different. In addition, the user is losing control of the well-established habit. The stages of addiction press on bringing extreme changes. The following common behaviors of a user in stage four can be any of the next:
- Neglect of responsibilities, obligations, and relationships
- Attempts to hide drug usage
- Constantly borrowing money or stealing it
- Hides drugs everywhere
- Changes peer group
- Doctor shops for more prescription drugs
- No interest in hobbies and activities
Physical and mental dependence in stage five proves the usage is not recreational. Tolerance levels continue to rise, and a dependency on the substance. Extreme physical symptoms occur. If use is not maintained, physical withdrawal symptoms emerge. Individuals in this stage realize that they need the drug to continue making their way through life.
In this stage, the person with a substance use disorder is addicted. Moreover, life cannot go on without the drug. There are no choices or control over anything. The main objective is to get the drug. The changes that began in stage four push to the extreme in stage six. The loved one with an addiction actively avoids family, friends, and co-workers.
Moving through the stages of addiction comes to an abrupt crash in the seventh stage. Living with an addiction is dangerous and often results in a crisis. In this stage, a fatal overdose is a severe risk. During the crisis stage of addiction, a plea for help may occur. If treatment is accepted, the habit can end in hope. Medically monitored detox is the first step to recovery. After that, deciding to receive treatment, detox, and initiate treatment saves lives. Relapse is always a danger, but successful recovery is possible.
Find Treatment for Addiction in Knoxville, TN
Understanding the stages of addiction can help loved ones trying to support a loved one with a substance use disorder. If you need more information about the stages of addiction for a loved one, Tennessee Valley Recovery has many programs. Our understanding and compassionate staff will assist you in an assessment or evaluation and form a personalized treatment plan to meet your needs.
Contact us now for more information.