What is the first stage in the cycle of addiction?

The first step toward addiction is to test the substance. It can be as quick as having the first drink or smoking a cigarette. Or, people may have used drugs in the past without developing a dependency, but are now moving to a more addictive substance. Sometimes there is a perception that addiction is something that exists in a person's character or it doesn't exist.

This idea may lead to the belief that a person who is struggling with addiction to a substance may have had a drink or tried an illicit drug once and immediately became addicted. However, the reality is a little more complex than that. As defined by the American Society for Addiction Medicine, addiction is a chronic brain disease that affects reward, pleasure, memory and motivation of the brain. Like many chronic diseases, it doesn't just arise one day.

Often, several circumstances align that, over time, cause a person who would otherwise enjoy the occasional drink or avoid substance abuse to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. The process of developing addiction in this case tends to occur in a series of stages and, like other chronic diseases, often turns into a cycle of addiction, treatment, or withdrawal and relapse. Multiple stages of addiction can occur in a short period of time, or they can take months or even years to develop. A person who has only had an occasional drink may, over the years, develop a habit that can develop into alcoholism.

If you think you or a loved one may be struggling with addiction, let us hear your story and help you determine the path to treatment. Sometimes, these stages can occur simultaneously. For example, for illicit substances used to feel “high”, even one use is considered abuse. Some of these illicit substances can also result in tolerance within one or two uses.

However, in most cases, all of these steps are part of the chronic cycle of addiction. There are many reasons why the person who ends up struggling with an addiction might try the substance to begin with. It can be as seemingly benign as getting a prescription for pain management or a mental health problem, as culturally typical as trying a first drink at age 21, or as insidious as being pressured by friends or family to try illicit drugs. Regardless of how the initial use occurs, it is the first step towards addiction.

However, even these risk factors won't necessarily lead to the high-risk person developing a substance use disorder, such as addiction. Other contributing factors often take into account, including later stages of addiction. When a person has been taking a prescription medication or has abused other substances for an extended period of time, the substance can cause changes in the brain that result in tolerance, a condition described by the Merck Manuals as one in which the original dose or use of the substance no longer produces the same physical effect or mental effect. As a result, the person using the substance may increase the dosage or frequency of use to try to recover the original result.

For a while, this could work. Then, over time, tolerance to this new dose occurs, and the person increases again, creating a progression to intense substance abuse. However, if the person has been using a medication to treat another condition and becomes dependent on that drug to feel good regardless of the condition being treated, it may be a type of dependence that leads to addiction. In general, experiencing 2-3 of these symptoms is considered a mild substance use disorder.

Reporting 4 to 5 of them leads to a diagnosis of a moderate disorder. If the person experiences 6 or more of the symptoms, it is considered to indicate a serious substance use disorder or addiction. A person may make several attempts to stop using a substance before realizing that addiction is a factor. However, when addiction is diagnosed, it is possible to interrupt this cycle of addiction, withdrawal and relapse by receiving professional treatment supported by research that demonstrates your ability to help.

Multiple methods, including cognitive and behavioral therapies, group peer support, and other physical and mental health treatments, can encourage the person to develop tools to manage this chronic and recurrent condition. As with medications and therapies used to treat asthma and diabetes, addiction rehabilitation treatments are designed to help a person learn to manage a chronic substance use disorder and reduce the likelihood of relapse in drug use. With certified and experienced motivation and help, these individuals can learn to interrupt the cycle of addiction and move toward sustained abstinence that heralds recovery and results in a more positive future. There is a popular misconception that there is a fine line between “casual substance use” and “addiction to alcohol” or drugs.

However, the truth is that there are stages of addiction, and progressing through them is the way addiction develops. The good news is that if you can identify that you are in an early stage of substance abuse, you can break the cycle before total addiction occurs. Much of this depends on the person's age and what they are taking. For example, while drinking alcohol at age 16 has been shown to be dangerous, having a drink or two at a friend's house is a relatively normal experience that, on its own, may not lead to a substance abuse problem.

However, a 12-year-old child experimenting with opioids would be at much greater risk of developing drug dependence. Contact our admissions staff at (22) 300-8470 to discuss our treatment programs or reach out online. The stages of addiction are first use, continued use, tolerance, dependence and addiction. Although each situation is unique, addiction can generally be divided into five segments.

These stages of addiction allow us to better understand what the patient is experiencing. Below is a more detailed overview of each stage. An official website of the United States government. does gov mean it's official.

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A Service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. National Library of Medicine8600 Rockville Pike Bethesda, MD 20894.Each of these stages will show symptoms of addiction development, but will only be noticed if you are interested in what to look for. The most important symptoms to watch out for include overexperimentation, constant use in daily life, changes in behavior, physical side effects that represent increasing dependence and, of course, an inability of a loved one to stop using. As a result, this stage can mark the end of your addiction, as well as the beginning of a new life without drugs or alcohol, which is full of hope for the future.

Understanding these stages is a critical step in recognizing that you may have a problem and seeking help before substance use turns into an addiction. Therefore, it is important that you become aware of the different stages of addiction so that you can recognize if a drug or alcohol addiction is developing. Once the final stage is reached, you have entered addiction and total dependence on the substance. Because this process follows a pattern, it is possible to divide it into the stages of an addiction, starting with a person's first use and leading to the addiction itself.

While there are health hazards associated with moderate alcohol consumption, this stage of addiction is much less dangerous than the following. The last thing you can consider is the stages of a drug or alcohol addiction in yourself, a friend, or a loved one. Because this stage of addiction also worsens overall quality of life due to alcohol or drug dependence, mental health often worsens at this stage as well. Understanding each stage and the behaviors associated with each of them is a valuable way to identify when someone is at risk of suffering from an addiction or has already developed it.

There are rehabilitation centers in Louisiana that work with people to help them regain control of their lives, regardless of what stage of addiction they are in. Depending on the severity and frequency of drug use, this cycle may be repeated several times a day or over the course of weeks. By remembering the five stages of addiction, you can watch closely during the summer and work to prevent an addiction from developing in you or a loved one before it's too late. During this stage, the individual will now understand how this particular medication makes them feel.

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Ginger Baney
Ginger Baney

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