Addiction is a slippery slope, and millions of people struggle with substance abuse disorder (SAD) each year. Full-blown addiction doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, addiction has four distinct stages: experimentation, regular use, high-risk use, and complete dependency. Understanding the differences between each stage is a critical step in recognizing when you have a problem and reaching out for help before substance abuse turns into a full-blown addiction. If you worry that you fit one of the last three stages, Hickory Treatment Centers can help.
Stage One: Experimentation
Experimentation with drugs or alcohol often doesn’t produce negative consequences. People in this stage may see getting high or getting drunk as a one-off experience, and the’s a significant amount of pressure on young people to try different drugs or drink. Many people may not realize that this is the first step in a downward spiral of addiction, although many people are able to stop on their own at this point. However, people who believe that substance use solves their problems or makes them feel good will progress to stage two, Regular Use.
Stage Two: Regular Use
Stage two is a turning point for many people, determining whether or not they develop an addiction. Some people may be able to regulate their use of drugs or alcohol, although the chances of dependence on their drug of choice increase over time, as does the likelihood of engaging in high-risk behaviors, such as driving while intoxicated. Regular substance use becomes habitual, and people eventually make it part of their routine, just like brushing their teeth or showering. Many people in Stage Two believe that they can quit whenever they want, and while some people may feel shame about their drinking or drug use, they still justify their behavior.
Stage 3: High-Risk Use
The step between step two and step three is a very small one. Step three is different from step two in that people at this stage continue to drink or use drugs even if they’re experiencing significant negative legal or social consequences. Substance abuse takes over every facet of the person’s life, affecting relationships, work and school, and the person’s health. People have unbearable cravings, driving them to do things they normally wouldn’t, just to get drunk or high. People may show up to work drunk or high or consistently drive under the influence.
Stage 4: Addiction
The final stage, stage four, is one of complete dependence on the drug or drink. When you don’t have a regular fix, you begin to exhibit significant withdrawal symptoms, like elevated heart rate, shaking and sweating, or tremors. Many people spend most of their time high and, at this point, are so dependent on the substance that they cannot quit even if they’re told their life depends on it.
All hope is not lost, however. With professional treatment, people at all stages of addiction can get sober and maintain a sober life. Addiction is a progressive illness, though, and left untreated will only get stronger and harder to stop.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, or if you recognize yourself as being in one of these stages of addiction, we can help. Hickory Treatment Centers provides comprehensive addiction therapy at several levels, including family therapy. Call us today for a confidential assessment and to learn more about your options.