Substance Abuse Treatment

Breaking the Cycle: How to Recognize the 4 Stages of Addiction

stages of addiction
Written by Fritz

Substance abuse can lead to deadly consequences. In the United States, over 700,000 people have overdosed from drugs over the last 20 years. About 25% of people who use illegal drugs end up becoming addicted to them. 

If you suspect that you or a loved one is becoming a drug addict, it may not always be obvious. Normally, this happens in various stages. 

What are the stages of addiction? This guide breaks each stage down.

1. Initial Drug Use 

Every drug addict has to start somewhere and that beginning is usually them liking the feeling they had during their very first experience. Because this drug is new at the time, it can be a very refreshing and exciting experience at first.

Your body will likely experience a dopamine rush when you first take this drug. For those of you that do not know, this is when your body mimics feelings of pleasure. It could be the thing that helps make you feel relaxed, happy, or excited while you are taking these drugs. 

It is very likely that this will be a feeling that you remember for a while. As a result, your curiosity and enjoyment of this feeling may make you want to seek out this experience again. 

Once that happens, you start to enter the next stage. 

2. Regular Drug Use 

This next stage begins when you seek out a drug more regularly. Instead of taking it once in a blue moon, you may get to a point where you want to take this drug once per week. 

There may come a point where you start prioritizing this drug use more and more. You could reach the point where you lose enthusiasm for other hobbies that you used to love. 

An example of this is when you start taking heroin after you play basketball regularly. Basketball tends to be a healthy sport where you can get some good physical exercise and it is a chance to socialize with other players on the court. 

However, when you take heroin regularly, you may get less motivated to keep up with your basketball commitments. Eventually, you may reach a point where you choose heroin over basketball and drop the latter completely. 

This stage can be the one where your hobbies start to change, your friend group starts to change, and it could get difficult to enjoy a regular job that you had. 

When these things start creeping up more and more often, someone may reach the next stage of addiction. 

3. Dependency 

By this stage, you are using drugs regularly and are starting to prioritize it over everything else in life. However, this could be the stage where your judgment and decision making starts to get impacted. 

That is because you are now developing a physical dependency on this drug. You will start getting bigger and bigger cravings for this drug. When your tolerance grows for this drug, you will need more and more of this to satisfy those cravings. 

When that happens, you can experience bad withdrawal symptoms if you go long enough without that next hit. Some feelings you could experience here are anxiety, depression, mood swings, panic, anger, and more. 

You could end up having less and less control over your physical and emotional state. As a result, you could seek these drugs as your only idea to get these feelings under control. However, you are only making the problem worse in this scenario. 

This stage typically leads to more and more desperation. People could lack funds and reliable contacts to supply them with drugs by this point. 

Then, people could resort to stealing from loved ones and abandoning all of the other responsibilities that they have in life to get their next hit. 

Unfortunately, the thing that typically happens by the end of this stage is that someone hits rock bottom with this addiction. Once that person realizes that they hit rock bottom, there is only one thing left to do. 

4. Seek Treatment 

Once someone hits rock bottom and admits that they have a drug use problem, they can now seek treatment for this. 

The initial stages will be tough if someone has a drug dependence. Luckily, a treatment center can help you manage withdrawal symptoms during this difficult time. 

Then, you can seek counseling and discuss with a professional what led you to start using drugs heavily in the first place. After that, you can be put in touch with other people going through situations similar to yours. From there, you guys can look out for each other and encourage one another to stay on the right path. 

Once you are out of recovery, you then have to find new hobbies to keep your mind off of drugs. On top of this, you need more positive influences in your life. This can be the time when drug addicts try to seek forgiveness from their family and friends. 

Recognize These Stages of Addiction 

These are the stages of addiction that you need to be aware of. Whether it is you or a loved one that may have a drug addiction, go over each of these stages again and see if they are familiar to you. 

The initial drug use is arguably the most difficult to spot because of the minimal changes in behavior. However, if you notice signs of regular drug use or drug dependence, you need to encourage seeking treatment. 

Do you want to learn more? Message us here with your questions. 

About the author


Leave a Comment

Have an addiction specialist help you.
Find the treatment you deserve!