The Three Stages of Drug Addiction

Psychologists define drug addiction as “a pattern of substance use leading to significant impairment in functioning.”

We offer the following warning signs as potential indicators of addiction, however, not every person who displays these behaviors is considered to have an addiction. An accurate diagnosis can only be made by a licensed professional.

First Stage: Preoccupation/Anticipation

Constant cravings for a drug are the very first sign that addiction is taking hold.

An overwhelming urge to use the drug of choice preoccupies the user despite other events, responsibilities or relationships in his or her life. Irritability, agitation, fatigue, depression and difficulty concentrating are the warning signs that something is out of balance.

Second Stage: Binge/Intoxication

drug binging As the drug is introduced into the body more frequently, larger amounts are necessary to continue experiencing the same high. To increase that feeling, excessive indulgence of the drug (binging) pushes the effects of intoxication to dangerous levels. Prolonged exposure results in desensitization, which can result in an overdose as the user attempts to regain the initial euphoria experienced when using the drug for the first time. The warning signs of the second stage include missing days or showing up late at work or school because you are using or recovering from a drug or alcohol binge; continued use in spite of threats of getting fired or expelled; scheduling your day around obtaining, using or recovering from drug use and choosing to attend events or spend time with friends only if drugs or alcohol will be available. Unexplained personality changes, sudden need for money, excessive need for privacy or possession of drug paraphernalia are all indicators of a full-blown addiction.

Third Stage: Withdrawal/Negative Affect

The withdrawal symptoms experienced anytime the drug is not present cause tremendous suffering if not managed by a caring medical professional.

Symptoms differ according to the specific drug, but can include:

  • Agitation, anxiety, panic
  • Insomnia, depression, paranoid thinking
  • Fatigue, muscle pain, feeling shaky
  • Headaches, dizziness, seizures
  • Nausea, vomiting, chills, cramps
  • Shakes, sweats, tremors
  • Psychotic reactions

At this stage, the only motivation in an addict’s life is to avoid the agonizing symptoms of withdrawal. All other conventional activities cease to have meaning beyond finding and continuing to use the drug.

Friends and loved ones may notice lost interest in family or social activities, hobbies, or even personal appearance. Risky behavior (stealing, sharing needles, unsafe sex), changes in eating habits, unexplained weight change, difficulty paying attention, violent or bizarre outbursts, even paranoia are all indications of the destructive cycle being playing out.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment at The Canyon

There are a variety of drug addiction recovery options available to you when you are ready to break your addiction to drugs and alcohol and embrace a new life: support group meetings, day treatment, outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment. If you have psychological issues like depression in addition to problems with drug abuse and addiction, then you need an inpatient treatment center that can address both diagnoses simultaneously. You need a residential drug treatmentlike The Canyon.

If you have questions about the stages of drug addiction or would like to schedule an appointment to speak with one of our counselors, call us today.

All calls are private and confidential.

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