Portrait of young brunette woman, annoyed and frustrated. Mental disorders bulimia, addiction. Concept of social issue.

Addiction is not something that happens overnight. It typically takes a lot of time for it to occur as the brain and behaviors change. Repeated substance abuse that happens over a period of time leads to these changes. Every person’s experiences are a bit different, but nearly all of them will have some level of the following cycle. From that first use through the inability to stop using, understanding where you are in this cycle of addiction is important.

#1: Initiation

During this first stage, a person is trying the substance for the first time. This can happen at any time in a person’s life. It is often brought on by curiosity or peer pressure. Family environment, family belief systems, and drug availability play a role here.

#2: Experimentation

In this second stage, a person has used the drug and is now taking the drug in various ways. You are testing out how it feels and how it impacts your life. No cravings exist at this stage, and a person is able to use or not use freely. That means that every use here is a conscious decision to use.

#3: Regular or Consistent Use

In this phase, the use of the drug becomes more normalized. It feels like it is just a normal thing to do. It does not have to happen every day, but there is some sort of pattern that occurs. Some people may be using every weekend. Others may use when they are having a bad day or when they are bored. At this point, the drug use can become problematic if it starts to impact a person’s life.

#4: Ricky Focused Use

In the fourth stage, a person is using more than they were and often more consistently. They are also experiencing the negative effects of using on their daily life. Often, this is when significant changes happen to a person, and they begin to feel the impact. For example, they may experience:

  • Neglecting their responsibilities or missing key responsibilities
  • Stealing or borrowing money
  • Hiding drug use, whereas before, they did not do so
  • Drugs are found in easily accessed places and may be at home, work, or school
  • There is a noticeable change in peer groups
  • Things that used to be enjoyable and normal are no longer interesting

It’s possible for a person to still be in somewhat of control at this stage. They may not be feeling cravings yet.

#5: Dependence Forms

In this stage, a dependence occurs. This is marked by the onset of cravings when a person does not get access to the substances they want and need. In some situations, the drug is no longer a recreational choice. It is something they feel they need to have access to.

Also notable about this stage is the onset of tolerance. That is, there is an increasing need to use more of the drug each time because the old dosage is no longer enough to create the same results and feelings. A person becomes tolerant to that amount and needs more to avoid the onset of withdrawal symptoms.

#6: Addiction

Dependency and addiction are two different things. At this stage, a person recognizes that continued use of the drug is not safe and carries risks and poor outcomes. Yet, they do not feel they can stop using it and continue to use knowing these risks exist.

In addiction, a person does not feel like they can deal with their life any longer without the use of substances. A person with addiction may feel as though they have lost complete control over their actions and decisions. They can no longer simply stop using. They feel compelled to continue to use. Often, they want to stop, but they are unsure of how to do so. More so, a person in this phase is also compulsively seeking that drug. They cannot stop, and nothing is more important to them than that drug. It is physically necessary.

#7: Treatment

When a person recognizes the need for change, and they are ready to take on the challenges it brings, treatment becomes a viable option. This final stage is like the breaking point for the individual. They recognize that if they do not take actions to get help, they could die. Overdose risks are high here. A person may be in a state of crisis. This is when they need treatment the most.

Finding Help You Need for Addiction Recovery

No matter where you or a loved one is in the cycle of addiction, it is critical to take action today to change your future. America’s Rehab Campuses can help you. We offer a wide range of tools and resources to support your best long-term goals. Learn more about our residential treatment programs and how they can help you. Call us now to get started.