woman looking out over ocean going through the 5 stages of addiction

Exploring the 5 Stages of Addiction

Addiction often happens subtly and over time, and that’s why there are five stages of addiction. Alcohol use can start out healthy, but then progress into a disorder. How do you know when you’ve become addicted? You need to figure out where you are. Wherever you are on the five stages of addiction, you should consider visiting women’s or men’s addiction treatment centers for help.

Stage 1: When You Begin to Experiment With a Substance

At this stage, you’ve just started using the substance. Many people reach this stage and never become addicted. It could be the first taste of alcohol, or a prescription for a painkiller. This isn’t a stage for concern, but it’s still a time when you should be wary. If you know that you have an addictive personality, or you have a family history of addiction, take care to monitor your use of the substance.

Some substances, such as some pain medications, can be addictive on nearly the first use. If you’re worried about addictive tendencies, you may want to ask your doctor to change your medication to something less addictive.

Stage 2: When You Continue to Use That Substance

Continued use of a substance isn’t necessarily bad in itself. A prescription medication, for instance, may need to be used for months at a time. You continue to use the substance, and its use becomes normalized. At this point, you’re likely not addicted, but the physical symptoms of addiction can begin. Your body can start to rely upon the substance.

Stage 3: When You Need to Use More and More of the Substance

At this stage, you’ll find yourself using more and more of the substance to get the same effect. Where you once drank two drinks a night, you might be drinking four or five. At this point, you’re in the danger zone, even with a regular prescription. This can happen to people who aren’t addicted, many people have some level of “tolerance” to alcohol. But this is when things could become a problem for you.

Stage 4: When You Have to Use the Substance to Feel Normal

This is one of the more serious stages of addiction. At this point, you no longer feel normal if you don’t have the substance. You need to have the substance to complete your day-to-day life. The other stages of addiction can be ambiguous or neutral. This stage is extremely serious. This is when you need to start weaning off a substance, even if it’s a medication that has valid use.

During this stage, withdrawal is more notable. When you don’t use the substance, you may experience flu-like symptoms. You may even start shaking or experiencing more serious physical issues. For certain substances, such dependency requires a medical drug detox center to recover.

Stage 5: When You Rely Upon and Don’t Enjoy the Substance

This is the most final of the stages. At this point, you aren’t even enjoying the substance. As an example, your pain medication may no longer be treating your pain. You now need the substance to function. You may not use the substance every day, but you will find yourself going back to the substance any time you experience life issues. The substance may become a crutch, which you lean on during more difficult times.

Evaluating Stages of Addiction

Not everyone has the same reaction to addiction, and not everyone will go through all of these stages. Some people may go directly from Stage 1 to Stage 5. Other people may bounce around between stages and never reach Stage 5. Some people will stay at Stage 2 for the rest of their lives. These stages are just guidelines.

What is important is that if you reach Stage 3, Stage 4, or Stage 5, it’s likely that you need to start treatment. At that point, you need help from a professional. A professional will be able to tell you whether you have an addiction, and how you can treat it.

Are you worried that you might be addicted to a substance? It’s time to get help. Contact Promises Behavioral Health, we can help assess your addiction and create a treatment plan made for you. Call 844.875.5609 today to start your recovery journey.

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