Need Help? Call (813) 881-1000

Understanding the 4 Stages of Addiction

Although it may feel like it from the perspective of the addicted individual, addiction doesn’t happen overnight. While there are many factors that contribute to drug and alcohol addiction, including genetic and environmental influences, socioeconomic status, and preexisting mental health conditions, most professionals within the field of addiction agree that there are four main stages of addiction: experimentation, regular use, high-risk use, and addiction or dependency. Not everyone in the first two stages of this process will develop an addiction, but individuals within the third stage are extremely likely to progress into full-blown addicts.

Understanding these stages is a critical step in recognizing that you may have a problem and seeking help before your substance use transforms into an addiction. If, after reading this article, you feel as if you or a loved one may be exhibiting symptoms of addiction, please reach out to a member of our team here at Phoenix House Florida regarding drug addiction treatment in Tampa.

Related: Physical vs. Psychological Dependence: Why Both Are Important to Treat

Stage One: Experimentation

One of the trickiest aspects of addiction is recognizing that often the first samples of drugs or alcohol produce few or no negative consequences. Experimentation, defined as the voluntary use of drugs without experiencing any negative social or legal consequences, is often accepted or even encouraged, particularly among young adults. The person using the substance primarily views this instance of getting high or getting drunk as a one-time occurrence, without recognizing that this is exactly what opens the door to the downward spiral of addiction. The individuals who are able to stop using by themselves will do so, while those who believe substance use will continue to make them feel good or solve their problems will progress into the next stage of regular use.

Stage Two: Regular Use

Stage two represents somewhat of a fork in the road for many people. While some people may be able to engage in the regular use of drugs or alcohol without developing an addiction, the risk for dependence greatly increases during this stage. As does the risk of participating in high-risk behaviors, such as driving under the influence. The occasional drink or drug turns into a common occurrence, like sleeping or brushing your teeth. Substance use just becomes another part of the routine and, before you can step away from use, you’re fooled into a false sense of security that it will be easy to quit. Some people during this stage may develop feelings of guilt or shame for their behavior but generally will continue to justify it or make excuses.

Related: 3 Facts About Drug Addiction Recovery

Stage 3: High-Risk Use

The line between regular use and high-risk use is a very thin one but usually can be defined as the continued use of drugs or alcohol in spite of severe social or legal consequences. What started out as a temporary form of escape from reality now takes precedence over other facets of your life, and you become either unafraid or unaware of the consequences of your behavior. Cravings become unbearable, and they may drive you to do things you wouldn’t normally do just to get your hands on more drugs or alcohol. You may also begin to justify dangerous behaviors, such as operating machinery while high or driving your kids to school while drunk, as necessary undertakings, and your work, relationships, and other obligations suffer as a result.

Stage 4: Addiction

Once the final stage is reached, you have entered addiction and complete dependency upon the substance. It’s no longer a question about whether or not you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol. When you don’t receive them, your body lets you know in the form of symptoms like shakes, sweats, tremors, and other frantic behavior. You spend most of the time drunk or high, and you don’t want anything to stand in the way of it. This is the stage that even if someone tells you that your life depends on stopping your behavior, you can’t.

Fortunately, no matter which stage of addiction you’re in, help is available. Addiction is a progressive illness that only gets worse when left untreated. If you’re ready to admit that you have a problem and embark on the road to recovery, speak to one of our compassionate counselors today about substance abuse recovery in Tampa.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, speak with a specialist regarding drug addiction treatment in Tampa. To schedule a consultation with Phoenix House Florida, please request an appointment today.

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are for general educational purposes only. All content and media on the Phoenix House Florida website does not constitute professional medical advice nor is the information intended to replace the services provided by Phoenix House Florida or other qualified medical professionals. If you believe you are having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.

Need Help?

At Phoenix House Florida, we have a passion for healing. If you or your loved one are in need of subtance use treatment, we are here to help. Give us a call or submit our appointment request form today.

Contact Us Now

How Can We Help?

The Derek Jeter Center

The Derek Jeter Center Adolescent program in Brandon, FL provides comprehensive outpatient services that help families deal with teen substance use and related mental health conditions.

At Our House

For some patients, stepping away from the buzz of everyday life is the only way to make a full recovery. Inpatient treatments help patients refocus their recovery efforts to achieve positive, long-lasting outcomes.

At Your House

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to recovery. Outpatient treatment must follow a continuum of care that starts with a thorough needs assessment and ends with recovery monitoring.