Not everyone who uses drugs or alcohol will go on to develop an addiction, however, for many, their use develops into a dependence.
This not only affects their own health, but impacts their social, professional and personal lives, as well as impacts the lives of others around them.
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Addiction develops in stages
Addiction is something that develops over time, and this development is often categorised into 5 individual stages.
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The first stage is experimentation.
This is where an individual experiments with drugs or alcohol by trying it.
While this can mean drinking for the first time or smoking the first cigarette just to ‘see what all the fuss is like’, experimenting with illegal drugs can be a gateway to additional and more frequent use.
At this stage, many will experiment and do not do it again, however, some may enjoy the feeling and want to do it again.
2. Social use
Also known as regular use, this stage is where an individual will consume drugs or alcohol in social situations, which may not cause harm or long-term dependency.
But, over time, this use can lead to increased tolerance and even physical dependence.
When tolerance to drugs or alcohol increases, a person needs more and more of a substance to feel the desired effect which can prove dangerous.
3. Risky or problematic use
This stage is called the problematic or risky stage because it is when the use of drugs or alcohol has a detrimental effect on a person’s life.
Your use of drugs and alcohol at this stage is causing harm to your health and social life.
For example, you may attempt to drive while drunk or high, and your performance at school or work will begin to be affected.
You may also start to use alone, and not require a social situation to get drunk or high.
This is the stage where it is important to consider rehab treatment and regain control over your life. More.
Stages 4 and 5 are very similar.
At this stage, a person has developed such a tolerance to the substance that they need a dangerously large amount to feel the effects.
Going without either drugs of alcohol at this stage will cause withdrawal symptoms which include muscle cramping, nausea and vomiting, tremors and fever.
5. Addiction or Substance Use Disorder
The difference between dependence and substance use disorder (SUD) is that at this final stage, individuals cannot go about their daily lives, they cannot function without their choice of drug or alcohol.
Many addicts are in denial about their illness or attempt to keep it secret from their friends and family. More.
At this stage, you will lose your job, or drop out of school, and even face severe debt and homelessness.
Your addiction is very costly, not just to your health, but socially, professionally, and financially.
If you are experiencing risky use, dependence, or addiction, then it is vital that you seek the help you need and deserve.
Our addiction specialists are always here to provide you with the advice you need to kickstart your recovery.
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“Addiction is a choice”: Myth or Fact?
Many on the outside of addiction, or unfamiliar with it often say that addiction is a choice, and the addict would be able to stop if they really wanted to.
But addiction is not like that. Addiction is not a choice.
Yes, it is true that many use drugs or alcohol and do not become addicted, however people react differently and there is no rule for why or how a person can begin to abuse substances.
Alcohol and drugs change how the brain works.
The brain begins to crave the feeling of drugs in order to feel normal. Learn more about how addiction affects the brain.
Addiction can happen to anyone, at any age, and it is not a weakness or something to be ashamed of.
What are the most common addiction myths?
There are so many people and services out there who want to help you.
If you, or a loved one is struggling with coming to terms with their addiction, then we are here to help.
For more information:
- Download a guide about the stages of addiction
- The Science of Addiction – The National Institute on Drug Abuse
- NHS information on drug addiction
Last Updated on March 3, 2022 by Alison