An addict may start off with recreational drug use, but then come to form an active addiction. Despite being completely aware of the risks, each substance abuser believes that they will be able to maintain control of their substance abuse. They believe they are able to stop before becoming addicted.
Unfortunately, that’s very rarely the case. In many instances, those who abuse alcohol or use drugs will eventually become physically and psychologically dependent on those substances. For some substances, it’s nearly impossible for an individual to overcome the addiction without the aid of addiction treatment programming.
It may be possible to stop using before the point of addiction in casual drug use cases. Still, it can be very difficult to distinguish the point when a person begins to need to abuse alcohol or drugs versus wanting to. As such, the following will define the various stages of addiction, explaining how substance abuse progresses from liking to craving to needing drugs.
Experimental Drug Use: The Point of Liking
In the beginning of the journey from non-addict to addict, an individual must abuse alcohol or use drugs and become intoxicated. This can occur in a number of different ways. For instance, the individual might become intoxicated at a social gathering as a means of alleviating stress.
An individual might abuse prescription medication with the hope of making the drug work more effectively. This renders most prescription substances less therapeutically effective. No matter why the substance abuse occurs, the individual will decide that they like the feeling of being intoxicated.
Individuals at this stage do not think their casual drug use will become an addiction. They do not feel that chemical dependency applies to them if they only use substances in specific situations. In their mind, they are still in control.
Regular Drug Use: The Point of Wanting
Having abused alcohol or drugs and liked it, individuals will often progress into the stage of wanting the drug more often. It’s during this stage that substance abuse begins to escalate and become more frequent. The individual begins needing larger quantities of alcohol or drugs in order to achieve the same desired effects, indicating the increase in tolerance. Alcohol and drug abuse is more than enjoyable now. It’s becoming a behavior that they think about more frequently and want to do more often.
Individuals will begin to crave the drug out of desire. Their cravings don’t yet involve withdrawal symptoms. Individuals at the stage of wanting will find themselves planning and looking forward to the next time when they will get to abuse their substances of choice. This person doesn’t necessarily even need a reason to abuse alcohol or use drugs. This not only entails higher dosages, but it also means a steadily increasing frequency of substance abuse.
By this point, a person is pursuing alcohol or drug abuse more actively. In many cases, the individual may also begin experimenting with more intense levels of intoxication by dramatically increasing dosage.
Problematic Drug Use: The Point of Craving
When a person reaches the point of wanting, drug use becomes more frequent and tolerance grows higher. By the point of craving, the person is beginning to become physically and psychologically dependent. After the individual develops a tolerance to the substance, their body begins to adapt to frequent consumption of large quantities of alcohol or drugs.
Although not necessarily experiencing actual withdrawal symptoms, an individual at the craving stage will often become distracted by their desire to abuse alcohol or drugs. It’s more than merely wanting the drug. The individual is beginning to have difficulty resisting the urge to abuse alcohol or use drugs. They may even begin experiencing anxiety at the thought of having to go too much time without either.
After obtaining drugs, the individual will feel a great sense of relief. However, the relief is short-lived and will only get shorter. Now, they will begin experiencing substantial consequences of substance abuse.
This can include:
- a decline in attendance and performance at work or school
- becoming less responsive in one’s relationships
- spending more money on drugs/alcohol; financial difficulties
Rather than acknowledging their drug use as the source of their problems, they regard it as the solution to self-inflicted stress.
Chemical Dependence: The Point of Needing
At the final stage of the disease’s progression, the individual is addicted. They experience withdrawal symptoms only a few hours after the last dose. This causes the individual to feel a frenzied sense of desperation throughout much of each day as they worry about how to obtain the money required to sustain their substance abuse.
By this stage, returning to a sober lifestyle is difficult. For instance, those who suffer from very severe alcoholism risk a very harmful, dangerous condition known as delirium tremors if they suddenly cease their alcohol consumption. As such, addicted individuals must seek an addiction treatment program in order to overcome the addiction.
Need Addiction Treatment? Call Us Now
As a disease, addiction is a very complex and potentially deadly affliction that negatively affects every aspect of one’s life. Although it’s an incurable disease, addiction can certainly be treated. Nobody should have to continue living in the throes of active addiction.
If you or someone you love would benefit from a free consultation and assessment, call Drug Treatment Center Finder today at 855-619-8070. Our recovery specialists are available day or night to help those suffering from alcoholism and drug addiction to find the programs that best meet their needs. With one phone call, you or your loved one can begin the journey back to a life of happiness and fulfillment.