The 4 Stages of Addiction: How to Identify and Overcome It

Many people will never make it past the first stage of drug addiction, experimentation. But for those who progress beyond this stage, addiction can become a reality. It's important to understand the four stages of addiction so you can identify the symptoms and signs of addiction, or if you have already progressed, know what to do about it. Experimentation is often accepted or even encouraged, especially among young people.

But it's important to remember that experimentation is not always harmless, especially if teens have certain risk factors for addiction. During the fourth stage, the addict has reached a point he would never have imagined before when he started experimenting. If they are able to identify your problem, they are rarely willing or able to take steps to correct it. During Stage 4, peer and family support is important, but it's also a serious emotional strain and sometimes even an impossibility. What starts out as fun or relaxing can end up being traumatic and even deadly.

It's helpful to know these stages and use knowledge to prevent the end result of addiction. Very few people set out to become addicted. A more common scenario is that a friend or family member offers the user a substance, usually with the stated intention that using the drug is fun or useful. A candidate may see this case of taking drugs as something that happens only once, but the first time may be what opens the door to the downward spiral of addiction. Peer pressure is the main culprit for this type of experimentation.

Young people, in particular, are in a crucial period of development when it comes to the need to feel accepted by their peers. However, while teens have a reputation for agreeing with the crowd, not even adults are immune to this pressure. Measurable stress levels tend to increase when we experience that we are not accepted into a group. Those who don't have a good defense against social ostracism often use an offered drug to feel included. Others will start taking a medication offered as a means of relieving physical discomfort.

While supposedly safe when taken as prescribed, pain relief medications used outside of a doctor's prescription are currently the primary factor in the development of an addiction. An overwhelming number of current heroin users cite prescription drug misuse as a starting point in their opioid addiction. In this next stage on the path to addiction, something that was once considered recreational or temporary becomes a lifestyle. The user discovers that life is not as comfortable or satisfying without using the substance, and begins to use it as a crutch to overcome everyday life. Experiences considered without the medication may be considered boring and users may not see any viable options to improve their sobriety circumstances. With full-blown addiction, the user is comfortable with the changes listed above.

Less time is spent on self-contemplation, since most thoughts focus on how to get the next high. An addict may not even look like the person you knew before. In addiction, users will feel that they cannot refrain from using the substance. They may make the decision to quit smoking, only to disappoint themselves with the use again. They may be aware of the misery of their loved ones, but their concern cannot negate the need to use.

Friends and family can take a backseat to associate with others who are using and supplying the drug. Someone in the midst of drug addiction may begin to neglect their basic needs. Grooming habits can deteriorate, meals are skipped and sleep becomes impossible without the influence of the drug to dictate the schedule. Jobs can be lost, resulting in a loss of income. Having no income can contribute to an increase in criminal behavior and the pursuit of charity, and can become a revolving door to sustained poverty. Similar to the stages of becoming addicted, there are stages on the path back from addiction.

The recovering addict must follow steps that include recognizing the problem, developing a smoking cessation plan, and implementing the plan. When the addict is ready to make changes, there are a multitude of helpful treatment resources available. A medical detoxification is the safest and most effective way to end chemical dependence on a substance and develop the tools needed for lifelong sobriety. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and looking for help, there are many resources available. An addiction doesn't form spontaneously during one night; instead it is result of a long process of repeated substance abuse that gradually changes how someone views drugs and how their body reacts to them. This process is linear and has same progression for each person although duration of each step in that progression can differ greatly.

Ginger Baney
Ginger Baney

Subtly charming food specialist. Extreme internet ninja. Unapologetic sushi lover. Avid coffee lover. Typical food buff.