According to the book Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction, substance dependency can change how the brain responds in situations such as stress and self-inhibitions. Furthermore, the National Institute of Drug Abuse found out that once damaged by addiction, changes in the brain are long-term and can even continue long after the victims have stopped using drugs.
The following paragraphs discuss the 5 stages of drug addiction. The first stage of drug addiction is trying the drug for the first time; second, drug experimentation. The third stage is regular drug use while the fourth is risky drug use. Lastly, the fifth stage of drug addiction is drug dependence. Continue reading for more information.
Table of Contents
5 Stages of Drug Addiction
Stage 1: Trying It For the First Time
Curiosity is the first step of getting hooked up with drugs. In this stage, victims try the substance because they want to experience something new. This stage may be voluntary but can also be forced or pressured. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey from 2018 showed that approximately 3 million people above 12 years old used a prohibited drug or abused a legal drug for the first time.
Additionally, there are many risk factors to consider why individuals try these substances. Victims of drug abuse must not be entirely blamed for this. Just because they have tried taking the drug, this does not mean they will become addicted immediately.
Stage 2: Experimentation
During this stage of addiction, individuals use the drugs occasionally. A great number of people in this phase can actually stop the substance use by themselves after trying it for a few times. On the other hand, a lot also feel like the substances help them solve problems and make them feel better so the infrequent use then becomes regular.
Stage 3: Regular Drug Use
Drug use transitions from stage 2 to stage 3 if victims start to use the products on a regular basis. For a usage to be considered as regular, they must be incorporated with the user’s routine. This routine does not necessarily mean every day. A predictable pattern develops that make the substance use regular. This can range from weekly or daily or whenever a person is stressed, bored or lonely.
The drug starts to become the user’s escape. Teens use these substances during parties. Adults resort to the use of illegal drugs to cope with the stresses of life. Be that as it may, regular use does not equate full dependence on the drug. Even if the victims regularly splurge on illegal drugs, they can still opt to stop by self-inhibition.
Although individuals in this stage can still make rational decisions to stop their drug use, they still continue because of the seemingly good effects the drugs bring upon their lives. These positive feelings are rooted in the chemical imbalance that drugs bring to the brain which can lead to long periods of regular and uncontrolled drug use. The victims also start to worry about not taking the drugs and revert back to their sad or lonely lives. Then, this eventually leads to the fourth stage of addiction which is risky and problematic usage.
Stage 4: Risky Drug Use
Long term regular abuse of drugs can have permanent damage to the victim’s brain. The American Society of Addiction medicine seconds this by categorizing substance abuse as a brain disease that negatively impacts the chemistry and circuits of the brain. The transition from stage 3 to this phase of drug abuse might occur quickly and is often undetected.
During the 4th stage of drug addiction, the victim’s usage starts to affect his or her daily life and relationships. The substance use is more prioritized and thus becomes abusive and problematic. For instance, individuals go to work or school under the influence of the drug which affects his or her performance. As signs of addiction are already obvious in this stage, the victim’s loved ones also start to show concern. This concern is commonly brushed off by the user in a negative and angry manner which results to strained relationships.
Moreover, people in this stage start to hide their addiction by doing their transactions secretly, changing their circle of friends, and even purposely changing their circle of friends just to prevent people from intervening. Aside from this purpose, physical and psychological cravings are stronger in this stage. Signs such as irritability, mood swings and depression happen if the drug is not accessed.
According to the UK Rehab, drug sensitization happens to addicts that make them want to take the substance more. Drug sensitization happens when the drug abuser undergoes heightened stimulant effects as a consequence of frequent doses that then results in an excessive craving for the drugs. The victim often experiences the common manifestation of feeling good and feeling high as a “reward” for the drug intake. This is one of the major reasons why people become fully dependent on the drug.
Stage 5: Drug Dependence
This is the final stage of drug addiction. Quitting at this stage is typically very difficult. In this stage, both psychological and physical aspects of victims are severely affected. Also, symptoms are commonly very intense and hard to manage. Because their bodies are fully dependent on drugs, withdrawal symptoms are often experienced if drugs are not accessed.
Furthermore, the chronic and uncontrolled substance abuse produces a high tolerance in the victim’s brain and body which makes them continually increase drug consumption. Drug dependency interferes with an individual’s self control.
Moreover, this hinders them from being able to resist intense urges to use drugs. This is where victims need the guidance of a rehabilitation center or doctor. Relapse is also common. However, do not lose hope as according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed.
Addiction is a Disease
Contrary to popular belief that it is the drug addict’s sole choice that lead to addiction, it is actually defined as a disease by the National Institute of Drug Abuse. A disease is defined by Britannica as “any harmful deviation from the normal structural or functional state of an organism, generally associated with certain signs and symptoms and differing in nature from physical injury.” Diseases are not simply a direct result of physical injury.
Given this definition, it is thus safe to say that the victims of addiction did not really become addicted solely by will. Moreover, it is highly important to understand the normal state of drug abuse victims before they acquired the disease.
The five stages of addiction include one, trying the drug for the first time; second, experimentation with the drug. The third stage is regular use and the fourth is problematic usage. Last but not the least, the fifth stage of drug addiction is dependency on the drug.
You may not realize it right away but having enough knowledge about the stages of addiction can in fact, be beneficial. If you understand these stages, you will be more equipped to recognize the initial phases of substance abuse as it happens. Then, you can help individuals seek help before they become fully dependent on drugs.