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What are the Stages of Addiction?

The stages of addiction are quite eye-opening if you’re a loved one of an addict. You may remember that person going through each stage without anyone even realizing what was going on. For those who are battling dependency, learning the stages of addiction can help you understand how you’ve reached the point you have in your addiction, so you can begin untangling yourself from the sticky web you may be jammed in right now.

The Five Stages of Addiction

There are five stages of addiction. There is no typical timeline for the stages. Each person goes through each phase at his or her own pace, depending on the motivations to use.

Stage #1 of Addiction - Exposure or First Use

The first stage of addiction can be when the person is exposed to an addictive substance or alcoholic beverage. Prescription medication is often a common gateway to the first stage of addiction. People can begin taking prescription medication to relieve pain. As they take the medication, they may find that it is helpful in many other ways, and they end up realizing that it’s difficult to stop taking it. Another common reason people use for the first time is due to peer pressure. Teenagers or young adults may try a drug or alcohol because their friends are, and that ends up opening up the possibility of addiction.

Stage #2 of Addiction - Increased Frequency of Use

When people start to use the substance of drink alcoholic beverages more, they enter the second stage of addiction. These people often go from only using on the weekends to using during the week. At this stage, the use of drugs or alcohol doesn’t affect school, work, or other responsibilities too much. However, the potential for that level of use to start interfering in performing well is there.

Stage #3 of Addiction - Risky Behaviors Begin

In addition to regular use, people who are in the third stage of addiction typically start engaging in risky behaviors. This may include driving under the influence, doing whatever it takes to get their drug of choice, lying, stealing, etc. These dangerous behaviors become riskier over time and often lead to many problems that can quickly cause addicts to feel out of control of their life.

Stage #4 of Addiction - Dependence

Addicts in the fourth stage of addiction have fallen prey to their addiction. They can no longer get through the day without using because they don’t believe they can handle life free from the effects of drugs and/or alcohol, or they suffer too greatly from the withdrawals. This dependence causes them to put their addiction before anything else.

Dependence can be emotional, mental, and physical. While physical dependency nearly happens for everyone using, emotional and mental dependency may not be present or as apparent for everyone. It is possible to be dependent on a drug and know there is a dependency on it and only use because the body will experience withdrawal symptoms if use decreases or ceases.

Stage #5 of Addiction - Total Takeover - Substance Abuse Disorder

This is the last stage of addiction. It is when drugs and/or alcohol have completely taken over the addict’s life. The addict may be fired from work, kicked out of school, spend days and nights using, lose a spouse and/or children and even be homeless due to not being able to pay rent or a mortgage. This is the lowest point in an addict’s life. Drug and/or alcohol use may increase and reach a life-threatening level. Many addicts in this stage are at risk for purposeful overdose.

This is the stage when most loved ones are highly concerned about the addict. It’s when relationships become strained because addicts have a difficult time knowing what is best for their life. Interventions may be used at this point to encourage addicts to go to treatment, but they don’t always work in getting addicts to want to recover.

Addiction Recovery at Each Stage of Addiction

Recovering from an addiction is easier during its early stages. There may not be a need to recover during the initial stage, but that phase can quickly turn into stage two. This second phase is one that many people who are prone to addiction (due to past history or genetics) should seek help immediately. Catching the possibility of addiction at this stage means life may not be as negatively impacted as it would be in subsequent stages.

Recovery at the third stage is a bit more difficult. People in this stage are already blinded by drug and/or alcohol abuse. They believe they need to have it in their life, and nothing will stand in their way of getting it. Recovery has to be more intense at this stage to break the love affair and dependence between addicts and their substances.

The fourth and fifth stages of addiction are the hardest to recover from, but recovering at this point is essential. These two stages affect life the most, so getting into recovery is the best thing addicts can do at these stages to save their life from being completely ruined.

How to Get Help at Any Stage of Addiction

Rehab centers can help people suffering from addiction at any stage. If your loved one is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, encourage him to consider seeking treatment immediately before it worsens. If you’re the one who is in one of the stages of addiction, don’t wait until life spins more out of control than it already is now. Contact us now for more information on how we can help you recover from your addiction. Save your life. Get clean and sober.

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