The 5 Stages of Drug & Alcohol Addiction

Summer is often filled with fun activities, such as cookouts, pool parties, and family road trips. The last thing you may be keeping an eye out for are the stages of a drug or alcohol addiction in yourself, a friend, or a loved one.

In fact, the events of the summer can easily disguise an addiction problem. Therefore, it is important that you become aware of the different stages of addiction so you can recognize if a drug or alcohol addiction is developing.

5 Stages of Addiction

The five stages of drug and alcohol addiction that you should look for are:

  1. Experimentation. This first stage of drug or alcohol addiction can be difficult to catch on to, especially if a loved one is trying a substance for the first time. It can be hard for you to determine if this experimental use will turn into something more serious. If a loved one is experimenting with drugs or alcohol, you should watch out for the reasons they are experimenting, how much they are experimenting with, and how often they experiment with new substances.
  2. Regular use. During this stage, individuals will have incorporated their substance abuse into their everyday lives. For some, this might be difficult to recognize, especially if they are “functioning” in their regular use. During this time, you can begin to notice if their regular use is slowly becoming problematic, and if they go through periods of time where they use, they stop using, and then they use again.
  3. Risky use. Risky use can be difficult to determine, especially since you might think something is considered risky that another person might not. However, as an individual keeps using, you will notice significant changes in their behavior that will likely alarm you. At this point, you should work toward trying to discover ways to help them get treatment for their risky use before it escalates.
  4. Dependence. By the time an individual grows dependent on their substance(s) of choice, both their body and mind is reliant on the substances. During this stage, a loved one’s use will result in serious behavioral changes that are obvious and dangerous. At this time, it is best if you help your loved one by providing them substance abuse treatment options that can help end their dependency.
  5. Addiction. The continual abuse of substances will always lead to a drug or alcohol addiction, especially as all stages progress. When a drug or alcohol addiction finally develops, the only option for help is to change the behaviors surrounding the abuse, which will only come from professional addiction treatment.

What to Watch For

Each one of these stages will display symptoms of addiction development, but it is only going to be noticeable if you are keen on what to look for. The most important symptoms that you should watch for include excessive experimentation, consistent use in daily life, changes in behavior, physical side effects that represent a growing dependence and, of course, a loved one’s inability to stop using.

By remembering all five stages of addiction, you can keep a watchful eye during the summer and work to intercept an addiction from developing in yourself or a loved one before it is too late.