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5 Stages of Addiction

Online Addiction Treatment - Resurgence - A young man is comforted by his mother and addiction therapist during a family therapy session for his online addiction treatment.

When struggling with addiction, you will go through the five different stages of addiction.

These stages are important to understand because addiction affects millions of Americans.

In 2018 alone, there were 164.8 million people above the age of 12 who admitted to using a substance in the last month.

Addiction is a serious disease and is defined by compulsive drug seeking, regardless of the consequences.

Addiction can ruin lives, and even though you might know this, you won’t be able to stop.

This is where addiction treatment comes into play.

Understanding the stages of addiction will allow you to see how it not only affects you but also how it affects your community.

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The 5 Stages of Addiction

The five stages of addiction include first use, continued use, tolerance, dependence, and addiction. Although everyone will show these stages of addiction differently, there will be similarities to look out for.

Understanding the stages of addiction and its cycles can help you save someone you love, or even yourself before it is too late.

#1 First Use

Addiction begins in many ways. Whether you become addicted to alcohol by trying a glass of wine, you experiment with a drug at a party, or you begin taking medication prescribed by a physician – possibly even looking into how to wean off Zoloft at some point – addiction can result from all of these scenarios. Typically, addiction is not expected. It happens fully by an unfortunate chance.

During this stage, you will begin to understand that you like the drug. You will be hooked and pulled in. Although you think you can just keep using it recreationally, often that is not the case. Especially if you are using this substance to cover up any emotional issues you have.

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#2 Continued Use

There are two forms of continued use. The first is the result of taking the medication that is prescribed. The prescription of opiates is a common reason that continued use happens. Sometimes although you never planned to try this drug recreationally, it is being given to you medically. You may not even know that addiction is taking place because you are “allowed” to take it.

Another reason continued use occurs is that you are simply using the substance recreationally, and then it becomes a habit. During this stage, you may begin taking more of the drug and needing more time to recover from a “hangover”. This is because your brain takes longer to repair itself once it is sober again.

#3 Tolerance

Tolerance is typically the first warning sign of true addiction. Tolerance occurs when your body or brain has become used to the amount of a substance you are ingesting. This means that although you may have needed one dose before, you might need two now to feel the same effect. This occurs after an extended amount of time of continued use.

It is important to note that this can occur with prescription painkillers as well. You may realize that your pain is no longer being alleviated with the same dose as before, and you might begin to take more to feel the same pain relief.

# 4 Dependence

Dependence is when the stages of addiction become dangerous. During this stage, you will notice your withdrawal symptoms become more intense. This means that they may become dangerous and even life-threatening. You most likely will not be able to function without using drugs or alcohol. At this point in the stages of addiction, it truly means that you have a physical dependency on drugs or alcohol.

Your withdrawal symptoms may be confusing too. You might have flu-like symptoms, sweats, or shakiness, that might make you think you are sick rather than experiencing withdrawal. The only time these feelings will go away though, is once you have the substance back in your body.

Because your brain is now chemically needing drugs or alcohol, you will feel as though you need this drug. It is now a biological problem, which means your mind must cope with the fact that it no longer has control.

#5 Addiction

Addiction is the last of the five stages of addiction. At this point, you are an addict. It will be almost impossible to stop using even if you are experiencing terrible consequences. It is common to flip between the stages of recovery and relapse.

Alternatively, you might also be in denial. You might be unwilling to get help, and outsiders can see this. If there is any glimmer that you notice you are struggling with one of the stages of addiction, it is important to get into recovery as soon as possible. The sooner you understand the addiction, the sooner you can get healthy.

Signs of Addiction

There are many factors that influence whether or not you will become addicted more easily than someone else. This might include mental health history, family history of addiction, or social environment. Recognizing the early signs will allow you to get started on recovery faster than anything else. The first signs of addiction can include:

  • Sacrificing things you once loved for your addiction: This means you might give up hobbies or relationships that once made you happy. Whether this is avoiding fun events that won’t have the substance involved or simply staying home to do the substance rather than see loved ones.
  • Physical changes in appearance: You may appear different directly due to using drugs or alcohol, or indirectly. You might look tired and drained, or pale. You might also pick at your skin and have track marks if you inject drugs. Overall you will most likely not care much about your hygiene or appearance.
  • Lying or being secretive: Often in cases of addiction you will want to use it in secret, or at least keep it from family and friends that do not approve. This might include lying, stealing, or sneaking around.
  • Denial: When you have a severe addiction it is hard to recognize it. You might not even be aware that you have a problem, especially in the case of an addiction to a legal prescription.
  • Financial difficulties: If you once were able to support yourself and suddenly you are borrowing money to make ends meet and spending all of your money on drugs or alcohol, this is a sign of addiction.

What To Watch For

Although everyone displays the stages of addiction differently, the most important symptoms to look for are excessive experimentation, consistent use of drugs or alcohol in daily life, changes in behavior, and physical side effects. Additionally, if someone is unable to stop using, they definitely have an addiction. Just know that there is always help.

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Don’t Let The Stages of Addiction Ruin Your Life

The five stages of addiction include first use, continued use, tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

Regardless of which of the stages of addiction you are in, there is always hope.

Behavioral health professionals help people with addiction all the time, and addiction treatment can truly help you during the stages of addiction.

To make it easier for you, at Resurgence Behavioral Health we offer free insurance verification for treatment.

We also know that there is hope even in the darkest of times.

Contact us today to learn more about all of our treatment programs and which one can help you.

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Alexa Iocco

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