Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy What Are the Stages of Drug Addiction and How Can You Intervene Early?

What Are the Stages of Drug Addiction and How Can You Intervene Early?

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The road to addiction looks different depending on the person. Some people are instant addicts, while others may spend years using a substance recreationally before they develop a problem. For this reason, the road to fighting addiction can also change, even if the stages stay the same.

4 Stages of drug addiction

Not everyone will develop a drug addiction or even abuse substances in the first 2 stages, but once a person progresses into the third stage, they’re more likely to become full-blown addicts. 

Stage 1: Experimentation 

A person who’s experimenting with drugs isn’t taking them regularly and may never take the substance again. A drug user may experiment every now and then to have fun or cope with a problem. If a person doesn’t progress beyond this stage, they’re typically not abusing drugs.

Stage 2: Frequent use

A frequent drug user is someone who doesn’t have a dependence or addiction and can typically stop at any time. It’s hard to determine when someone becomes a frequent user, but it’s usually when they use a substance every weekend without it causing negative social consequences.

Stage 3: Drug abuse

The line between drug abuse and dependency is a thin one, but drug abuse typically comes with craving, preoccupation with the drug, depression, irritability, and fatigue. If someone is drinking 6.25 drinks per week, they’re on the cusp of dependency, but they aren’t quite there.

Stage 4: Dependency

At the dependency stage, a person will feel a compulsion to use every single day. Withdrawal symptoms are present when they try to stop. They’ll continue to use the drug despite the severe negative consequences their dependency inflicts on their relationships and public image.

How to intervene early (or ASAP)

Once you’re convinced your loved one has a drug problem, it’s essential to take them to an addiction treatment center near you, like Roots Through Recovery in Long Beach, California.

Get help and form a team

The best time to speak to your loved ones about their addiction is at the “frequent use” stage, so get help early. Speak to a professional interventionist, a doctor, or a social worker and try to include their close friends and family members in the intervention. Then, come up with a plan.

Gather information and plan

Come up with a day, time of day, location, and guest list. Outline how the intervention will work by gathering information about the substance abuse, addiction, and recovery process. Find rehabilitation and detox programs in your area that suit your loved one’s personality and needs.

Write impact statements

Everyone at the intervention should talk about how the person’s addiction is personally affecting their friends, family, and the addict themselves. Relationships are hurt by substance abuse, and it’s okay to express your feelings. Make your statement honest and focused on offering support.

Offer help, but set boundaries

If your loved one wants to make a change, be willing to support them by attending therapy sessions or visiting them at the treatment center. If they refuse the treatment, set boundaries and refuse to enable that behavior. Explain the consequences if they don’t seek help.

Manage your expectations

It’s very difficult to admit you have a problem. Your loved one may not think they have a problem or may feel too embarrassed to admit it. It’s important to manage your expectations and expect some resistance. There are many reasons someone won’t accept help, so hear them out.

Follow up with your loved ones

Any statement made in your intervention should be upheld, or you could unintentionally cause more stress. If you’re committing to support them, do so. If you’re cutting them off, try to follow through on that promise. Otherwise, you may slow down the treatment or rehabilitation process.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.


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