No two addictions look exactly the same. While one person may struggle with a long, slow slide into chronic substance abuse, another may seemingly develop a dependency on drugs or alcohol overnight. Whether your addiction develops rapidly or evolves over time depends on a number of factors, such as your genetics, your social environment, and the types of drugs you’re abusing.
Regardless, you’ll almost always experience five distinct stages on your path toward full-blown addiction. Recognizing an addictive disorder in its early stages can improve your chances for a successful recovery – and help you avoid potential long-term consequences that could change the trajectory of your life forever.
To help you identify the five different stages, here are some of the most common characteristics of each phase.
Most of the time, drug and alcohol abuse begins with social experimentation. Teenagers often succumb to peer pressure, without considering the potential consequences of their actions, while adults may see occasional drinking or drug use as a way to blow off steam or connect with friends. At this stage, most people have control over their usage and don’t drink or use drugs with any regularity.
When casual, infrequent usage becomes more consistent, this turns into habitual use. Patterns emerge, such as regular drinking or drug use at parties, on the weekends, during special events, or even while alone. Drugs and alcohol become a preferred coping mechanism to uncomfortable feelings, and while most habitual users tend to function normally in their day-to-day lives, cracks begin to form in their emotional and mental resilience.
Once a drug or alcohol habit has solidified, a person might start engaging in risky behaviors as a result of their substance abuse. Poor decision-making skills, coupled with desperation to get the next fix, can cause destructive and irrational conduct. This may include driving while under the influence, draining finances or stealing to fuel the addiction, or lying in order to hide it. While the addict may be in denial during this stage, to those around him are most likely beginning to suspect there is a problem.
After an extended period of drug or alcohol abuse, tolerance increases significantly. This means the user needs to take more of the substance to achieve the same effect. With increasing doses, the body and brain chemistry adapt, and eventually, a physical dependence develops – meaning the body becomes unable to function normally without drugs or alcohol. If drinking or drug-use stops abruptly, uncomfortable, and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms (such as nausea, headaches, vomiting, and even seizures) may arise along with intense and incessant cravings, both psychologically and physically. At this point, a medically supervised detox program is the safest way to get sober.
Full-blown addiction is ugly and painful. It often causes people to lose their jobs, sabotage their relationships, or find themselves without a home. This is often referred to as “hitting rock bottom,” the lowest point in the person’s addiction, when it feels as though things cannot get worse. Everyone has a different rock bottom. One person may recognize the unmanageability of their life after a near-miss collision while driving under the influence, and another may not see it until they end up in jail. But one thing is for certain, untreated addiction will keep getting worse and wreaking havoc on people’s lives.
It’s never too late for addiction treatment at Alvarado Parkway Institute
Whether you’re struggling with habitual use or are caught in the throes of a full-blown substance use disorder, addiction treatment can help you get sober and stay sober. At Alvarado Parkway Institute, our inpatient treatment center offers detox, intense therapy, and round-the-clock medical care, while our outpatient rehab clinic allows you to live independently while you take an active role in your recovery.
At Alvarado Parkway Institute, we’re here to help you at any stage of your addiction. We recognize the individual struggles of each of our patients and strive to provide individualized care to help you live the sober, satisfying life you deserve.
It’s never too late to ask for help. Call us today at (619) 485-1432.