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The Stages Of Addiction & Recovery


Many people delay seeking help for addiction because the entire process can feel unending. However, this thought process will only worsen a substance use disorder. The fact is that there is a clear path to recovery for people who abuse drugs and alcohol, and while no timeline is exactly the same, the vast majority of people experience the same stages of addiction and recovery.

So, what are the stages of addiction? At what point should you try to get help? How long does recovery take? Finally, where can you go to recover from substance abuse?

In today’s guide, we will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s look at the different stages of addiction to understand how it can worsen over time:

What Are The Stages Of Addiction?

Again, not everyone experiences addiction the same way. However, decades of research have shown a pattern of behaviors that can generally be categorized into 5 stages of addiction. Keep in mind that these stages are not always clearcut or distinct; sometimes, a person may be in between different stages or experience the signs and symptoms of a later stage very early on. In any case, let’s take a closer look at the 5 stages of addiction:

The First Stage Of Addiction

The first stage of addiction is often known as the “experimentation” phase. This is the time when you first try an addictive substance, or the first time that you begin using an addictive substance repeatedly. However, not everyone who experiments with drugs or alcohol is automatically beginning an addiction. Classification of addiction can vary based on the person or the substance.

For example, someone may drink alcohol to unwind after work, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are in the first stage of addiction. Alternatively, someone may try crystal meth once and be in the first stages of addiction. Additionally, if a person begins drinking large amounts of alcohol for several days in a row, they are likely entering the first stage of addiction.

The Second Stage Of Addiction

The second stage of addiction is an extension of the first stage. After you’ve experimented with using a new substance or begun over-indulging in a substance, you might begin making it a habitual part of your life. The second stage begins when the experimentation turns into regular use. At this point, it may still be relatively easy to leave the substance behind. However, the longer you use an addictive substance, the greater the chance that you will become severely addicted and progress to later stages.

The Third Stage Of Addiction

The third stage is often when others begin to take notice of your substance abuse, as it will start to have negative effects on your life. You might struggle to meet work, family, or school obligations as a direct result of your addiction. Alternatively, you might begin engaging in risky behavior, such as unsafe sex or driving under the influence during this stage. A strong indicator that you have a substance use disorder is that you continue to use one or more addictive substances in spite of negative consequences.

The Fourth Stage Of Addiction

By the time you reach the fourth stage, you are mentally and physically dependent on drugs and/or alcohol. You’ve probably developed a tolerance, which requires you to use or consume greater amounts to achieve the desired result. If you make attempts to quit or otherwise lose access to drugs or alcohol, you will experience withdrawal symptoms.

The Fifth Stage Of Addiction

The fifth stage is generally the point when medical professionals would diagnose you with a substance use disorder. This is the most severe stage of addiction and indicates that you have lost control over your substance use. Your addiction has likely become the primary focus of your life, whether you realize it or not. Oftentimes, you will experience severe consequences related to your health, personal relationships, and life when you reach the fifth stage of addiction.

The Stages Of Addiction Recovery

There is less consensus about how many stages of recovery there are, as some experts include “relapse” as a part of the recovery process. However, not everyone will experience relapse, and even if they do, it can still be considered a part of a larger stage within your recovery. It’s also important to consider the length of recovery; some argue that recovery is something that lasts for life, to one degree or another. However, the primary stages of recovery often last anywhere between a few months and a few years. In any case, let’s examine the 5 primary stages of addiction recovery:

The First Stage Of Recovery

The first stage of recovery might be considered a different form of experimentation. But rather than experimenting with an addictive substance, you’re tentatively experimenting with the idea of recovery. You may actively contemplate it, weigh the pros and cons, and research the best methods and pathways to sobriety.

The Second Stage Of Recovery

The second stage of recovery begins when you start making a determined effort to recover. This could be as simple as preparing yourself to enter rehab or attending a meeting for addicts. Either way, this is a vitally important transitional period between substance abuse and recovery.

The Third Stage Of Recovery

In the third stage of recovery, you are actively pursuing sobriety with the help of trained professionals. This stage often begins with detoxification and either inpatient or outpatient rehab, depending on your needs and the severity of your addiction. Generally, inpatient rehab is the preferred method, as it is the easiest and safest way to remove triggers from your immediate environment.

The Fourth Stage Of Recovery

The fourth stage typically begins during your chosen treatment program. You’ve begun learning new behaviors and coping skills, and you can start putting these to work to maintain your sobriety. This is a pivotal moment in the recovery process, as you are testing your own ability to remain sober as you exit inpatient treatment.

The Fifth Stage Of Recovery

The fifth stage of recovery is an ongoing process of aftercare, often through formal outpatient treatment. You will continue to learn how to live a substance-free lifestyle, and you will likely make use of therapy and support groups. It’s important not to gloss over this stage, as it is the only way to ensure that you stay sober and avoid a relapse down the road.

The Importance Of Stopping The Addiction Cycle As Early As Possible

As you can see, addiction is not something that happens overnight. It involves a series of decisions that can snowball into a full-blown substance use disorder. If you catch addiction early on, you have a much better chance of avoiding the gravest consequences. Plus, it’s much easier to overcome addiction before you’ve become physically and/or mentally dependent on drugs or alcohol. Ultimately, the best decision you can make for yourself is to be proactive and seek professional treatment before the addiction has a chance to spiral out of control.

How To Receive Help For Your Addiction Today

Are you or someone you love struggling to overcome addiction? Do you need a safe, professional environment in which to recover? If so, Prosperity Haven has everything you need. We can help you beat your addiction with comfortable, discreet inpatient rehab. All it takes is one phone call to start your journey toward a clean and sober life.

Located in Chardon, Ohio, Prosperity Haven offers advanced inpatient rehab and detox managed by trained professionals. Reach out today to learn more.


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