What are the stages of addiction? What are the stages of recovery? Why is addiction on the rise and what is the definition of addiction? These are the questions that we aim to answer in this guide.
Addiction changes depending on the drug, the length of time that the person has been addicted, the dose they were using, and on a number of other factors. Therefore, it is difficult to describe an exact process and to list exact stages of addiction and stages of recovery. However, if you want to learn more about individual drugs then simply visit the respective pages on this site. You will find links to these below and you can also find them in the menu bars above.
What are the Stages of Addiction?
The following briefly outlines the main stages of addiction. These do not include withdrawals or recovery and simply describe the physical and mental changes that a person undergoes when they experience addiction.
Stages of Addiction – Use
The first time a person uses a drug can be an eye-opening experience. It can make them sick, it can make them worried, or it can take all of their problems away. The effect it has on them doesn’t always dictate whether they will become addicted or not, but someone who has an amazing first experience is more likely to continue using.
For many, their first experience with substances are alcohol or marijuana consumed as a teenager. These drugs are rarely abused after being consumed in this manner, but they can lead to other drugs. Around the world, they often serve as gateway drugs. A person doesn’t get the experience they seek from them so they look for others, at which pint they might try narcotics.
In the US, many first-time narcotic experiences come as a result of prescriptions for broken limbs, dental issues and other legitimate reasons.
Stages of Addiction – Problems
An addict has a very unique psychology. We can all become addicts, but for many of us the addiction is precipitated by moment of mental distress, illness or stress. When we have problems and we find something that takes those problems away, we are more inclined to continue to use that substance.
There is such a thing as an addictive personality, but only because that person has less respect for their health and is going through more psychological turmoil. They may have a preexisting mental illness (codependency, borderline personalty disorder and bipolar disorder, as well as many other mental health issues, all trigger a higher rate of drug addiction) or they may simply be experiencing higher levels of stress.
Stages of Addiction – Loss of Control
The addict always feels in control and always thinks that they can stop. To an extent, they are right. But the point at which they lose control is the point that they can no longer turn back. This is when the tolerance increases, when they go from “every now and then” to “every day”. It is the point at which addiction is rooted in them and which they would suffer withdrawals if they were to stop.
Stages of Addiction – Breakdown
The addiction has taken over and the addict begins to suffer a breakdown in their relationships their career and everything else. Their loved ones may leave or give up; they may lose their job or be thrown out of school; they may suffer health problems; and they may cease to care about how they look or about their health.
At this point life is lived for the substance. It is all they can think about and their greatest fear is not being able to have enough, while their dream is to have enough forever more.
Stages of Addiction – Realization or Destruction
This is the final step. The addict may take many years to get to this point, but the only step beyond is death, self-destruction, or recovery.
At this point they know they have a problem. They are either helpless to do anything about it and therefore just decline into nothingness, or they summon the nerve to get over it and they go onto recovery.
Stages of Addiction: Recovery
There are three main stages of recovery. These require the patient to go through many difficult times and to come to many realizations. These stages include:
- Cessation: The first step is to stop using the substance or to stop performing the activity. This will require the patient to first admit that there is a problem and then to look to counselors like ours to help them with it. They can either stop straight away, which is known as going “cold turkey”; stop with a taper, which is a gradual reduction process; or they can stop with the help of a substitute, such as the use of methadone in heroin withdrawal.
- Detox: Once the initial symptoms are out of the way, the patient needs to detox from the substance. During this stage, their body and their brain will be fighting to get back to normal. Their body will go through many changes and they will need to find off a lot of symptoms, as well as endless cravings. This is a longer process, and while the symptoms are not as severe as those that present immediately after stopping, they can be more psychological.
- Sobriety: At this point, many of the symptoms are not there. The body and mind has returned to normal and all is well, for the most part. However, there are still cravings and the risk of relapse is still there. If the patient suffers from a moment of weakness, they may return, and that’s why they need help on hand at all times.
If you are a slave to a substance or an act, then you may be addicted. It is the act of being powerless to a specific thing, and that thing ruining your life. It is often thought that addiction is limited to drugs and alcohol, and other addictions are dismissed out of hand as being harmless and a product of a modern world that is quick to label everything. But the truth is, addiction can come in many forms and while some are more dangerous and difficult than others, all of them can cause great discomfort and can make life very difficult for the sufferer.
The following addictions are very common. Many of these are on the rise, some are in decline.
- Prescription Drugs (Amphetamines, Opiates, Sleeping Tablets)
If something takes a lot of your time, has a negative effect on your health, makes you feel like you need to do it, and leaves you with stress, anxiety, cravings and even sickness when you do not, then you may be addicted.
Why is Addiction on the Rise?
Not only is addiction on the rise, but the problems that it causes are also on the rise and this is perhaps the most worrying stat. These problems include overdose deaths, which have been steadily increasing for a number of years and have reached alarming heights. A lot of these problems result from the fact that drugs like heroin and other strong opiates are the ones being used the most.
Not only is heroin highly addictive, but it has a relatively low threshold for overdose. These problems occur in first-time users who receive too high of a dose; users who are given a drug that is purer and therefore stronger than they expect; and users who have relapsed, taking a dose that is now too strong for their reduced tolerance.
There are many clinics, specialists and organizations out there working hard to fix these issues and to bring those numbers down. Such is the case with organizations like SAMHSA. Their events help to raise awareness for these issues. Together we can all help, but in the end the onus is on the addict to deal with their issues, which they can do with support from those organizations.