Addiction is a substance abuse problem which happens over time. An addiction starts out innocently, where a person begins to experiment with drugs. However, if it continues to evolve through the stages, the person can become addicted a substance if he continues to use it. Addiction typically follows the stages listed below.
Experimentation: This stage can happen at any age, not only in one’s youth as many may believe. This stage typically begins because of curiosity. One could be introduced to substances through a friend, who informs him alcohol or another substance could be used to relieve some sort of physical or emotional pain they are experiencing, so they try it to see if it truly alleviates the problem. This stage is characterized by occasional use, where the person is in control of making the decisions about his substance use. Most individuals, when beginning in this stage, never think he will ever become addicted to a substance. Even though testing various drugs or alcohol does not seem very harmful, every time an individual uses or experiments with drugs, he could be doing damage to his body, and possibly even leading him further and further down the path to addiction. Drug experimentation used in certain situations can also have very harmful effects, such as using substances while pregnant or driving while under the influence of a substance. If one continues to use alcohol or drugs past the stage of experimentation, he will likely begin misusing alcohol or drugs habitually.
Regular Drinking or Drug Misuse: Regular substance misuse occurs when a person uses a substance regularly in social situations or for any other regular usage. It could be because he wants to fit into a social situation or just because he wants to and chooses to use socially. However, not all people use regularly use in social settings; some other individuals may choose to use when he is by himself. At this stage, the person has not become reliant on the substance to function at this stage, and some never go beyond this stage. Nonetheless, this stage is where the process of training the brain to develop a reliance problem to substance. The person still is in control of his drug use at this stage; the substance is used to help the person to feel better or to relieve negative feelings the person is experiencing at this point. If one continues to use substances in social situations or on a regular basis, he will likely develop a substance abuse problem.
Substance Abuse Problem: An alcohol or drug abuse problem can manifest itself in several ways. One way it can manifest is through binge drinking or heavy drinking over a period of time. A person who binges on drugs would also fit into this same category. The second way this problem can manifest is through substance abuse, when problems continue to arise related to one’s alcohol or drug abuse. The issues can be related to one’s health or social functioning. Typically, a person who develops a problem in this stage does so because he begins to realize the substance can numb painful feelings, so the person no longer has to experience or deal with them. Drug tolerance also often develops during this stage, causing the person to need more and more of the drug to obtain the same effects. If drug abuse continues to progress, it is possible for an addiction to occur.
Addiction: Again, if alcohol consumption or drug abuse continues, it will likely lead to a full-blown addiction. Becoming hooked on a substance occurs when the item physically alters the body or the mind of an individual, who is using it. At this stage, the person becomes obsessed and can no longer function without ingesting alcohol or drugs. The person can no longer control the substance use despite it causing negative consequences in his life, and he will experience withdrawal symptoms in this stage if he tries to stop using the substance. At this point, the person is basically willing to do whatever it takes to obtain the substance to use, and most people in this stage are in denial he even has such a strong infatuation with alcohol or drugs. The longer the person is preoccupied with the substance, the harder the recovery process will be. It is also necessary that an addict seek professional help at this point to overcome his obsession with alcohol or drugs because at this stage, he will not be able to do it on his own.
Each of these markers can vary for different individuals, and one does not have to be in the addiction stage to seek help. A person can be in any of these stages and seek help for drug use, and it is better to treat the issues early in order to have better treatment outcomes. If you think you or a friend may fall under any of the stages listed above, please seek immediate professional help in order for them to assess your situation.