The 5 Stages of Addiction 

the 5 stages of addiction

What is the definition of addiction?

It is a chronic dysfunction of the brain system that involves reward, motivation, and memory. It’s when your body craves a substance or behavior, causing a compulsive or obsessive pursuit of reward and lack of concern over consequences.

Addiction seriously interferes with your daily life. People experiencing addiction are prone to cycles of relapse and remission, which will worsen over time. This could lead to permanent health complications and serious consequences.

Article Content:

  • What are the types of addiction?
  • What are the signs?
  • What are the stages?
  • How do you treat addiction?
  • Getting Help

What are the types of addiction?

The most severe and well-known addictions are to drugs and alcohol. According to the United Nations, over 36 million people worldwide suffered from drug use disorders in 2021.

The most common addictions are to:

  • Nicotine, which can be found in tobacco
  • THC, which can be found in marijuana
  • Narcotics and pain relievers
  • Cocaine
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine or coffee
  • Gambling
  • Food
  • Technology
  • Sex
  • Porn
  • Work

Noting that sex, porn, technology, and work addictions are not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

What are the signs?

You could know someone might be experiencing addiction when they react negatively when they don’t get their rewards. For instance, someone addicted to coffee may experience physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms like severe headaches and irritability or anger.

Most signs of addiction are from their inability to maintain self-control without the substance or behavior they’re addicted to.

A person that is experiencing addiction will experience the following changes:

  • Social changes, like seeking situations that encourage a substance or specific behavior
  • Behavioral changes, like increased secrecy
  • Health-related changes, like insomnia, memory loss, and drastic weight loss

Emotional and behavioral changes associated with addiction also include:

  • Poor judgment regarding the risk of using or overusing the substances or behaviors
  • Blaming other people or factors for their problems
  • An increased level of anxiety, depression, and overall sadness
  • Severe reactions to stress

What are the stages?

In most cases, addiction will often play out in a person’s life in stages. The body’s reactions during the early stages of addiction will differ from those during the later stages.

1. Experimentation:

The first stage of addiction is called experimentation or initiation, during which time the person tries the substance or behavior for the first time out of curiosity. While this is commonly occurring with teenagers under 18, it happens at almost any time in a person’s life.

The two common reasons teenagers experiment with substances are curiosity and peer pressure. When they’re peer pressured, their choices are influenced by the intent of fitting in with a specific group of peers.

It’s important to note that if someone might have tried a specific substance or drug, that does not mean that they will develop an addiction. In many cases, the person engages out of curiosity, and once that curiosity has been satisfied, they stop there.

2. Regular use:

This stage is when the individual continues to experiment with the substance or behavior until it becomes normalized and grows from a few times to a regular habit.

They don’t necessarily engage every day, but there is definitely a pattern associated with it in this stage. For example, on weekends only, when they’re stressed or bored with friends or alone.

There is still no addiction at this stage, and the use is still manageable. However, the individual may start to develop a mental reliance on it, and the idea of quitting becomes hard.

3. Risky use: 

During the third stage, regular use has grown and is now more frequent with a noticeable negative impact on their life. Their performance at school or work will notably suffer, leading to financial difficulties.

The person may not realize it at this stage, but people around them will now almost certainly notice a shift in their behavior.

They might start to:

  • Borrow or steal money
  • Neglect responsibilities such as work
  • Keep secrets and hide things
  • Changing their group of friends
  • Losing interest in hobbies

4. Dependence:

In the fourth stage, the individual’s use is no longer recreational, but they become reliant on the substance or behavior.

The person will experience a physical and psychological dependence at this stage. Their body will experience dangerous withdrawal symptoms if they cut the substance off abruptly. The substance becomes a coping mechanism, and they will start to believe that they need the substance to function.

They can no longer deal with life without access to substances or behavior. They lose complete control of their actions and choices, chasing the reward. They will be so out of touch with their old life that they do not recognize how their behaviors are detrimental and the effects that it has had on their relationships.

5. Crisis and treatment:

The final stage is the breaking point in a person’s life. This is when their addiction grows out of their control and presents a severe risk to their wellbeing. This stage can be referred to as the crisis stage, too, since, at this point, the addict is at the highest risk of suffering a fatal overdose or a dramatic life event.

Of course, while the crisis is the worst-case scenario for this stage, a positive alternative could also occur here. Either on their own or as a result of a crisis, this is when many individuals realize they need help and begin receiving treatment. As a result, this stage can mark the end of their addiction.

How do you treat addiction?

Addiction treatment is not one-size-fits-all. Treatments vary based on the person’s needs. They can choose the treatment that works best for them based on the substance they’re abusing, the level of care they need, their mental health needs, and finally, what they can afford.

Here’s a list of some of the most common addiction treatments that have set patients on a successful path to recovery.

  • CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • DBT – Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • REBT – Rational Emotional Behavioral Therapy
  • EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
  • Hypnotherapy 

Getting Help

Talk to a professional; if you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction, you don’t need to fight the battle alone. There are successful treatments available that can help you overcome your addiction.

Download Ayadi today, and let us match you with a therapist that fits your needs. With a network of over 50 qualified bilingual therapists who understand our culture and traditions, you can access high-quality mental health care that is affordable, 100% confidential and judgment free.

Photo created by jcomp