What Are the Stages of Addiction?

The majority of individuals do not wake up randomly one day and decide they are going to develop an addiction. Substance dependence is a journey with various stages. 

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There has been a misunderstanding about individuals who struggle with substance addiction and dependence over the years. The words that many have grown up hearing are, “Try it once and you will become addicted”. Though that saying holds some truth in many cases, there are still various factors that can ultimately lead to addiction. 

What Are the Various Phases of Addiction?

The various phases of addiction are the following:

  • Infatuation (Initial Use)
  • Honeymoon (Abuse)
  • Betrayal (Tolerance)
  • On the Rocks (Dependence)
  • Trapped (Addiction)
  • Recovery (Relapse)

Substance dependence was defined as a complex condition by the American Psychiatric Association. It is a persistent brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite damaging consequences. The need or desire for the next high becomes more powerful than jobs, hobbies, or family. 

Similar to any chronic disease, the stages of addiction gradually advance over time. The stages vary for every person, some individuals quickly progress, and some individuals take years to advance to the addiction stage. 

Infatuation Stage or Initial Use

There lie numerous reasons why an individual’s journey will lead them to engage in drug use the first time. It can start with something as simple as a mental health condition, a pain prescription, peer pressure to try a drug or a drink at a party. Whatever the initial reason is for the use, it will start to rewire the person’s brain. 

As time goes on, the person will begin to become in love and “starry-eyed” with the feeling. Human beings experience the signal the brain gives that “if it feels good, do it”. As the feel-good feeling begins to increase, the body and brain will begin to crave what creates the overall feeling. 

Whether the infatuation stage or the initial use will cause an individual to advance through the stages of addiction depends on several factors. A couple of the risk factors that can lead to dependence are the following but it’s not limited to these factors.

Mental, Sexual, or Physical Abuse 

Individuals who have been a victim of trauma or abuse of any kind are more likely to engage in substance abuse to escape physical or emotional pain. For this reason, it’s super important for individuals to know whether they have an inclination towards dependence and can make the decision to stay away and not entice destiny. 

A Family History of Addiction 

Similar to numerous chronic diseases, substance use disorder can be passed down through genes. Even though it presents to be extremely difficult to discuss drug and alcohol use in the family, it’s still crucial. This way an individual can determine whether they have a predisposition towards dependence and if they can choose to stay clear and not persuade fate.

Peer Pressure

It is true that the company an individual keeps says a lot about the type of person that they are. Many individuals face this when they weren’t able to receive the proper acceptance they needed to get at home. People have discovered that drugs and alcohol don’t turn anyone away. When a person experiences the high feeling, they feel accepted and loved. 

Honeymoon or Abuse Stage in Addiction 

The next stage in the stages of addiction is the honeymoon or abuse stage. In this stage, individuals begin moving from a place of attempting to mask the pain and hurt that they are experiencing to instead utilizing it for an euphoric response. Once a person enters the abuse phase in the stages of addiction, the individual will typically begin to stop recognizing the negative feelings that used to alert them about the issues that need to be focused on. 

An individual is often aware that they should pay an adequate amount of attention to the above-mentioned feelings but it’s also extremely difficult to ignore the strong desire to get “high”. The person usually believes the illusion that is created in their brain. As a result of this, they will typically feel more powerful, outgoing, attractive, and invincible. In reality, substance use is causing more problems in a person’s life. 

Betrayal or Substance Abuse Stage

Ongoing substance abuse builds up an individual’s tolerance which then leads to a decrease in the physical and euphoric effects that an individual is used to experiencing. When a person’s body begins to build up a tolerance, it’s normally an indication that the brain has been altered. An individual’s brain has the ability to rewire the way it behaves with or without the substance. 

One of the individual’s biggest fears is the feeling of inadequacy. When an individual first begins engaging in drug use, they feel invincible, almost like they are on cloud nine. It’s important to note that this on top of the world feeling is simply an illusion that has the ability to lead down a road named Betrayal. 

The individual will begin to feel betrayed because the substance made them feel super powerful and made them feel as though all of their problems can disappear and that’s not reality of how life works. So after the person comes to this realization they begin to search for that initial feeling again of high that they once found. This often leads to the individual trying more substances. 

Furthermore, the cycle typically continues down a downward spiral. The individual will generally find themselves stealing, lying, and even missing work in order to find and score their next high. Family members might begin to question their behaviors. Due to excessive substance use, it’s more challenging to see the negative consequences of the individual’s substance dependence. Once the brain is continuously rewired, the journey to the next addiction has begun. 

On the Rocks or Substance Dependence

There are various types of dependencies especially when it comes to pharmaceuticals. For example, an individual with asthma is dependent on medication in order for their lungs to be able to properly function. This type of dependency doesn’t lead to addiction as long as the medication is continued to be monitored and prescribed by the doctor. 

A person with a chronic illness however begins to use their medicines for other reasons than what was originally prescribed is a type of dependency that leads to addiction. Individuals who discover themselves in this stage find themselves “chasing” that initial high despite the obvious negative consequences the individual’s substance use has caused. The three main factors to continue an individual’s journey is the following:

The Rewired Brain 

Continued use of alcohol or drugs has the ability to lessen an individual’s brain neurotransmitters, which makes it more difficult to feel happy. As a result of this, deep depression usually kicks in, and the individual searches for the honeymoon phase again.

People, Places, and Things

An individual’s surroundings can trigger the brain to “crave” the substance they are dependent on. For example, seeing a friend or family member that physically or mentally abused the individual can definitely trigger a “craving”.

The Fear of Withdrawal 

Depending on the drug an individual is dependent on, the withdrawal symptoms will vary. Some of the withdrawal symptoms that might be experienced are the following:

  • Heart rate and breathing changes
  • Headaches 
  • Sweating
  • Insomnia 
  • Nausea 
  • Fever 
  • Chills
  • Pain 

Trapped by the Substance or Addiction 

Addiction is defined as the inability to halt consuming a substance even when it’s causing harm. The person typically becomes trapped by the substance and it creates a tight hold that is nearly impossible to escape from. Substance dependence is considered a chronic mental illness that has defined symptoms and behaviors. The behaviors might include the following:

  • Experiencing relationship problems that revolve around the substance abuse 
  • Spending the day searching for the next high 
  • Continued use despite the consequences
  • Giving up activities that were once enjoyable 
  • Pulling away from friends and family 
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms 
  • Putting self in dangerous situations 
  • Denial that there is a problem 
  • The inability to stop using
  • Intense cravings 

In the phases of addiction, this stage makes individuals feel trapped as if there is no way out. The person usually feels like they have lost all their ability to cope with their life on sober terms. Practically all of the signs of life before the substance dependence developed have vanished. 

The individual’s brain generally only focuses on getting “high” here. Physically, the person’s body only knows how to even function by being under the influence. Overall, being in a high state is the new normal for the person’s body. Emotionally, the individual feels as though they are in a form of a pit of despair with no clear exit. The feelings of hopelessness are so shattering that the individual must get high in order to not feel the intense pain. 

Overall, this becomes a vicious cycle that almost feels impossible to escape from. In the phases of addiction, this stage is the longest. There are individuals that can spend years in this stage, and sadly some people never make it out of this stage alive. 

How do the Various Stages of Addiction Impact People’s Lives?

People’s lives are impacted by the various stages of addiction in numerous ways. Typically, many individuals don’t realize how terrible their addiction is until they have reached rock bottom. For every person, rock bottom will look different. 

Rock bottom is when a person can no longer cope with the overall destructive effects of addiction. It means that the substance abuse has gotten so extreme that the person’s overall defense mechanism is failing and their body is going into survival mode. You don’t have to lose everything and it doesn’t have to get to this point. 

Lifetime Recovery Can Help Those Struggling With Addiction 

Relapse is extremely common in the lives of those struggling with addiction. The most effective way to take addiction head-on is to attend a treatment center in a safe, substance-free environment. Recovery is possible. Contact us today.


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