As scientists learn more about addiction, their knowledge improves treatment methods. One common pattern in substance use is that of the three stages of addiction. These stages show how addiction develops and continues. By understanding the stages, it’s possible to use the knowledge for a better chance of lasting sobriety.
How Addiction Happens
If you suffer a drug or alcohol addiction, you know it can set in very rapidly. On the other hand, it can happen slowly, developing over many weeks or even years of substance use. Some people move quickly from their first use into addiction. This can be a result of their own level of substance use or the drug being so addictive it rapidly takes over their life. Before they know it, they’re a drug addict.
Obviously you never planned on developing an addiction. There are many factors that got you here. These factors include your genetics, age, environment, health, brain biology, family history and other issues. You also developed addiction based on your reasons for using drugs or alcohol in the first place.
Someone who drinks alcohol casually at a party may never experience addiction. But another person who drinks to feel more social or attractive is likely to struggle with addiction problems.
Addiction officially sets in when you continue using drugs or alcohol despite the problems they cause for you. Your life will spin out of control and everyone around you can see the addiction.
For others, substance use hasn’t destroyed relationships or aspects of life yet, so the problem may not be clear. This early stage addiction is easier to treat and easier to overcome. Sadly, being in denial about the problem means a rough journey before rehab.
Three Stages of Addiction
There are three stages of addiction. The earlier you catch your addiction and seek treatment, the better your chance for stable, healthy recovery. If you or someone you love denies treatment early in the stages, recovery requires more work and may not happen until “rock bottom.” No matter where you are in the stages of addiction, getting treatment is the key to ending your addiction and having a real chance at a better life.
Stage One: Preoccupation and Anticipation
The first signs of addiction include cravings for the drugs or alcohol. Cravings create an overwhelming desire to use the substance, despite what you’re experiencing in your life. Cravings come along with;
- Difficulty concentrating
This is the stage where life and behaviors fall out of balance.
Stage Two: Binging and Intoxication
In the second stage, you need more of the substance to gain the same effects. This means binging on drugs or alcohol and reaching dangerous levels of intoxication. You also become desensitized to your substance of choice. This greatly increases your risk of overdose.
Co-occurring mental health disorders like anxiety and depression often worsen during this stage. This is a key reason why dual diagnosis treatment can be vital to recovery.
Stage Three: Withdrawal and Negative Effects
You go through many changes as part of drug or alcohol addiction. Substances you use change your moods and behaviors. If you stop using, you go through symptoms of withdrawal.
Withdrawal symptoms vary according to the substance you use. But common signs of withdrawal include:
- Headaches, dizziness, chills, sweating
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping
- Agitation, depression, anxiety, paranoia
- Fatigue, sleeplessness, muscle pain, shakiness
Withdrawal symptoms are the bane of people’s existence at this stage. Most people will do anything they can to avoid withdrawal, no matter the consequences.
In fact, withdrawal symptoms can be so intense that you feel like you’re dying. That’s why professional detox is often necessary during treatment. Detox should always happen under medical supervision to ensure your safety and comfort. After detox, you’ll be able to focus on the psychological aspects of addiction in treatment.
Addiction at Any Stage Means You Need Treatment
No matter which stage of addiction you’re in, you need treatment. Only through rehabilitation can you gain lasting recovery from drugs and alcohol.
In Portland, Oregon, Crestview Recovery provides drug and alcohol treatment for adults like you. You can enjoy peer support in your journey to sobriety as part of Crestview Recovery’s programs, including:
- Outpatient: You can receive part-time addiction treatment while still maintaining a degree of independence.
- Partial hospitalization: If you need more constant care, you can receive up to six hours of therapy per day while living at home or in a sober living facility.
- Intensive outpatient: This program offers more hours of therapy than outpatient treatment while still allowing you to live at home.
- Aftercare: You’ll have a long-term plan for sobriety that you can follow even after you leave treatment.
The truth is that you can find your way back through the stages of addiction to sobriety. You just need the right help to get there. Call Crestview Recovery now at 866.262.0531 for the addiction help you need in the Pacific Northwest.
Since 2016, Dr. Merle Williamson, a graduate of Oregon Health Sciences University, has been the Medical Director at Crestview Recovery, bringing a rich background in addiction medicine from his time at Hazelden Treatment Center. He oversees outpatient drug and alcohol treatments, providing medical care, setting policies, detox protocols, and quality assurance measures. Before specializing in addiction medicine, he spent 25 years in anesthesiology, serving as Chair of Hospital Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee and Chief of Anesthesia at Kaiser Permanente. This experience gives him a unique perspective on treating prescription drug addiction.