Aside from those who are unable to stop using substances, addiction to them follows a prescribed path. Even though it may seem like fun, or even relaxing, addiction can lead to traumatic and even fatal outcomes in an individual’s life. These 4 stages of addiction are important to identify early on, and should be addressed as soon as possible.
It’s not common that people intend to become addicted, but unfortunately it happens more often than not. A regular scenario is when a friend or relative offers the drug to the user, often with the intention of making their life more fun or to help them escape a tough situation they are going through. Although the individual might view the experience of getting high as a life changing event, the first time it happens can lead to a downward spiral into addiction and endless amounts of unnecessary pain in their lives.
This type of experimentation is often influenced by peer pressure and modern social settings many people encounter. Particularly the young demographics are in a critical developmental period in which they need to feel like they are accepted by their peers and want to feel a sense of “belonging”. While teens are known for wanting to be a part of the crowd, adults can also feel this pressure to the same extremes. When we feel that we are not accepted in a group, our stress levels will increase and in turn we feel immense anxiety. To feel included, those who lack a strong defense against social ostracization may resort to using the drug offered to increase their chances of being accepted into a circle of friends.
When there is no instance of peer pressure being applied to take a drug, it’s often the user is suffering from a type of psychological discomfort or mental illness. These drugs can be used to reduce stress in the workplace, ease anxiety and cope with life’s challenges, ultimately an escape from reality. These substances can be very effective in relieving these problems. If they are effective, an addiction to the escape is more prominent and will likely result in causing even larger problems in their life than the ones they were initially dealing with.
Some will take the offered drug to relieve physical discomfort. Although they are safe when used as directed, addiction can be self soothing in the form of taking medication that is not prescribed. A large percentage of heroin users blame misuse of prescription drugs for their opiate addiction.
The next step on the path to addiction is when something once considered temporary or recreational becomes a daily routine. The user discovers that life without the drug is unfulfilling or ultimately uncomfortable, and then starts to turn to the substance to get them through the day. The user may find that the experience without the drug is boring and may not see any options to improve their situation.
What may appear to be a way to relieve boredom or stress, can ultimately lead to it. Regular users report that they no longer enjoy the activities they used to enjoy, and that they may experience extreme mood swings between doses. Some users abuse substances to relieve anxiety or depression that they feel they can’t out run on their own. However, their experience of negative moods increases as a result of increased substance use.
Regular and repeated drug use only aids in developing a psychological and physical dependence on the drug. The brain ceases to release chemicals naturally and relies instead on an external substance to regulate and provide. In order to restore homeostasis, the body may stop functioning normally and require higher levels of the drug to achieve the same level of effect. This is a gained tolerance and typically when the amount used begins to increase. The user may also find that areas of their life that were previously manageable have now become nearly impossible to handle while sober.
Tolerance to the drug can become a problem over time as we just mentioned. The brain will need more and more of it to maintain its normal functioning. Once someone develops tolerance to a drug, they will need to take stronger or more frequent doses to get the relief they are seeking.
This part of the addiction process often leads to an individual becoming easily agitated and more confrontational. Noticeable changes in behavior and increased risk taking is common, and ultimately users may be surprised at things they are now willing to do once dependency and tolerance have set in. It’s likely that the user begins to associate with people who are less safe for social interaction, but more importantly their own safety. Some users might even justify dangerous behaviors, such as driving under the influence, as necessary or acceptable for their own benefit. In order to get high, work obligations might be delayed or neglected and more importantly personal relationships with the ones who truly care can suffer abuse and neglect.
The individual is now comfortable with all the changes mentioned above, a full blown addiction. Because most thoughts revolve around how to get the next high, there is less time for self-reflection, growth, or healing of any sort to take place. A person who is now addicted may not look the same as someone you knew prior to their substance abuse. The changes both physically and mentally are apparent and unfortunate, and this is the reality of drug addiction not only in the United States, but world wide.
Some users may resolve to stop using, but then find themselves back in the same cycle of drug use, and around the same people who ultimately are bringing them down. On top of this they might even be conscious of the pain and suffering their addiction causes their loved ones, but can’t seem to use this as motivation to seek help regarding their drug problem. In an addict’s mind, friends and family will not be prioritized over not only the drug itself, let alone those supplying the drug to them, or the ones they tend to use the drug with.
A person in the grips of a drug addiction may even neglect their own basic needs. People suffering addiction tend to keep poor grooming habits, skip meals, or become unable to sleep without the drug dictating their schedule. Job opportunities can be lost, leading to a non-existent income and a lack of income can lead to increased criminal behavior and charity seeking. This ultimately ends up in a vicious cycle of sustained poverty and homelessness.
There are stages to overcome addiction, just like there are stages of becoming addicted. Recovering addicts must go through several steps. These include acknowledging the problem, creating a plan to quit and then putting it into action. There are endless resources that can help an addict make long lasting, positive changes and should be discussed with their doctor. A medical detox can be the most safe and effective way to end chemical dependency on a substance and can provide an individual with all of the tools necessary for sustainable and effective sobriety.
We can help you or your loved one if they are suffering from addiction. Our drug treatment center and detox are staffed with caring, experienced professionals who will help you get your life back on track.
Contact us today if you or a loved one are struggling with any one of the 4 stages of addiction. We are here to help you throughout your journey to recovery.
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