Addiction, at it’s most basic level, is still a nebulous concept. It’s difficult to pin down exactly where an addiction begins, and it’s not always easy to tell when someone’s actually addicted. However, despite the elusive nature of addiction, it still follows a pattern with observable steps. While it may not always be clear where and when these stages begin, they’re all a fundamental part of the addiction process. If you’re aware of the stages of addiction, it’s much easier to step in and do something about it, whether it’s on your behalf or someone else’s.
Addiction has to start somewhere, and often begins with regular binging and intoxication. Just because someone drinks on occasion doesn’t mean that addiction is a certainty. However, if someone is in a constant state of intoxication or is constantly binge drinking, this could be laying the groundwork for an addiction. Our bodies get acclimated to the feelings drugs and alcohol provide, which means we need more of it to maintain it. If someone doesn’t continue, they’ll hit withdrawal, and they’ll hit it hard.
What often follows these periods of intense use is a dependence. At this point, your body has become used to the effects drugs and alcohol produce. Without them in your system, the body can’t function correctly, and begins to break down. Depending on the substance in question, you might experience headaches, nausea, violent pain, mood swings, seizures, or worse. This is why so many individuals keep coming back to drugs and alcohol, as the side effects of withdrawal are simply too painful to deal with.
At this point, it’s almost impossible to stop thinking about when you’re going to get your next fix. Due to the changes in the brain caused by drugs, it can feel impossible to function without them. Because drugs have caused such a significant amount of change in the brain, you’ll be constantly preoccupied with getting more drugs or alcohol to prevent withdrawal from setting in.
The lines between these stages are blurred, and it’s very difficult to tell where one ends and another begins. However, intuition and watchful eye are your best tools to prevent addiction, so if you suspect that you or a loved one may fall somewhere on this spectrum, it’s definitely time to seek help.