What Are the Phases of Addiction?

The phases of addiction can range from mild to severe, depending on how long one has been using substances.

What Is Addiction?

When many people start using substances, they can sink deep into their addictive behaviors, which can lead to them often losing sight of who they are. At this point, the cycle of addiction can kick in. This generally consists of finding the drug, using it, wanting to get rid of the drug, and then potentially relapsing. This cycle is different for everyone, with some stages lasting longer than others depending on the person and the severity of the substance abuse.

The stages of the cycle of addiction generally follow a sequence of internal emotional impulses leading to extreme action, then humiliation and guilt.  

Phases of Addiction


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Is Addiction a Disease?

Science indicates drug abuse and dependency are chronic diseases and not a moral fault of the individual.1 The National Institute on Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse, and Mental Health Services Administration has identified addiction as a long-term, relapsing condition characterized by obsessively seeking and using substances despite severe effects.2  

Addiction vs. Dependence

Addiction occurs when the brain undergoes biochemical changes due to persistent drug or alcohol usage. Most people use the term “dependency” to describe a physical dependence on a substance.

Dependency manifests itself as tolerance and severe withdrawal symptoms after the body stops receiving the substance. If someone has a physical dependence on certain drugs, they can easily develop an addiction to that substance. This is sometimes more prevalent in certain people due to genetic or other outside factors.  

Addiction Risk Factors

Like many psychiatric diseases, substance addiction has several causes. These risk factors will be detailed below.  


Environmental variables, such as parental values, attitudes toward drug use, and exposure to a drug-using social group, may contribute to starting drug use at an early age.


Inherited, or genetic, qualities may impact the onset of addiction after one begins taking drugs. These factors may either delay or expedite the disease’s growth within the body, and can even impact what symptoms of addiction someone has.

Mental Illness

When someone has a mental health issue like depression, anxiety, PTSD, borderline personality, or ADHD, they are more prone to developing a drug use problem. For instance, research indicates that those who abuse opiates are at an increased risk for depressive disorders. Additionally, cannabis use has been linked to an increased risk of developing schizophrenia.3

If you or a loved one have any mental illnesses and want to get therapy in order to help, choose a therapist that specializes in assisting people with dual diagnoses.

Social Factors

Family environment dramatically influences a person’s susceptibility to substance use and addiction. Living in a chaotic household with minimal parental or adult guidance puts teens at higher risk. Poverty is also often associated with higher levels of stress, which may raise the risk of substance use as well.

Other Risk Factors

Drug misuse and addiction have some links to illicit drugs, alcohol, and prescription medications in a person’s home, school, or community. Prescription drug abuse has grown in tandem with medical prescriptions in recent times. As a result of the increased accessibility and lack of education, more people are becoming addicted to these drugs every day.

Addiction Signs and Symptoms

Addiction to illicit and alcoholic substances is a growing problem in the US. Signs and symptoms might help determine whether you or a loved one is affected and needs help.

Signs of Alcohol Addiction

There are several common signs of an alcohol use disorder, including:

  • Issues at school, work, or home
  • Putting one’s health at risk despite knowing the consequences
  • Legal trouble (in most cases from drunk driving)
  • Continuing to consume alcohol, notwithstanding its related issues
  • Physical dependence on the substance

Alcoholism Symptoms

Symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Regularly craving a drink
  • An inability to abstain from alcohol
  • The need for more alcohol in order to achieve the same effect
  • Nausea, vomiting, sweating, tremors, anxiety, heart problems, seizures
  • Giving up hobbies to drink (or to heal from hangovers)
  • Drinking when it’s unhealthy
  • An inability to abstain from alcohol4

Drug Addiction Symptoms

Drug symptomatology consists of behavioral, psychological, and physical manifestations. Symptoms may vary across substances and the stages of addiction, but most will be consistent.

Some physical signs of drug addiction can include sores around the eyes, sudden weight loss, sleep disturbances, and even a change in skin tone.  

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Missing school, work, and other important events
  • Withdrawal, seclusion, or secrecy
  • Problems with the police and the law
  • Increased conflict
  • Sleep changes
  • Unexpected financial issues

Emotional Symptoms

  • Irritation, argumentativeness
  • Loss of activity, friends, and relationships
  • Misbehaving or being childish
  • Prone to confusion
  • Failing to explain their actions when challenged
  • Deflecting blame and diverting attention

What Are the Phases of Addiction Recovery?

When it comes to drug misuse, there are numerous phases. However, these habits may be addressed and treated at any time, despite the widespread belief that individuals need to hit their lowest point before they can profit from treatment. Phases of addiction include: 


The initial addiction stage may be difficult to grasp, mainly if a loved one is using drugs for the first time and is experiencing mild withdrawal symptoms.

There is a risk that this experimentation might evolve into something more harmful. If your loved one is experimenting with drugs, be on the lookout for their behavior. Know how much they’re experimenting with and how frequently they experiment with different substances if they use alcohol or drugs. 

Regular Use

At this point, people begin to integrate their drug addiction into their daily lives. Especially if they are “functioning” in their everyday usage, it may be difficult for some to notice this.

A person’s frequent usage may become troublesome and you may observe periods when the person uses, then stops, and then uses again. 

Risky Use

It might be challenging to decide what constitutes dangerous usage, especially if you believe something is risky that someone else does not. Even if you don’t see these changes at first, they will become more apparent as the user continues to use them.

This is the time to begin looking for solutions to assist them in obtaining treatment for their dangerous usage before it worsens. 


At this phase, your body and mind become dependent on their drug of choice. Addiction by a loved one may lead to drastic behavioral changes that are both obvious and harmful. It’s great if you can aid your loved one at this point by pointing them in the direction of treatment choices for their addiction. 


A drug or alcohol use disorder will almost always result from long-term substance usage, particularly as the phases advance. When addiction takes hold, the only way to recover is through expert treatment programs that will address the underlying causes of the misuse. 

Addiction Withdrawal

This phase is generally among the last phases of addiction recovery. Suddenly stopping usage of the substance or reducing the quantity used might cause withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms might vary depending on the substance one is trying to stop, the daily dosage, and the length of time one has abused the drug. 

What Are Withdrawal Symptoms?

Depression, anxiety, anorexia, sleeplessness, and even suicidal thoughts are some of the possible withdrawal effects. Others include nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and a fast heartbeat.

Some of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be a danger to the person’s life. Such symptoms include spasms, excess hallucinations, tremors, and seizures. The severity of the symptoms will depend on the different phases of addiction.

How Long Does Withdrawal Last?

Physical withdrawal typically lasts between three and five days, while mental withdrawal may last for weeks or months. While most symptoms last for a few months, others can linger around for years.

Treatment for Substance Use Disorder in the San Fernando Valley

Treatment for Substance Use Disorder

There are many different ways that you can get treatment for substance abuse disorder – it’s not one size fits all. The following are common stages of recovery from addiction: 

Alcohol and Drug Detox

When it comes to drug and alcohol rehab, one of the initial phases of recovery is usually detox. Detox is the process of removing harmful chemicals from the body. This can be dangerous depending on the type of drug you’re detoxing from and how long you’ve been using the substance, so please only do this under medical supervision. 

Addiction Therapies

The process of drug treatment doesn’t end with detoxification. Behavioral therapies aid people in substance misuse programs by changing their attitudes, promoting sobriety, and teaching life skills that help them cope with difficult circumstances, causes, and cravings. Therapies for substance abuse include:


An aftercare program is a way for recovering addicts to deal with the stress and cravings they may experience after treatment is complete. Each person’s stages of change in addiction and their post-rehab care plan will be unique. Included in your plan may be the following:

  • Taking part in alumni programs at your addiction rehab facility
  • An extended amount of time spent in a sober home
  • Attending 12-steps or other sobriety groups
  • Meeting with a therapist for individual and group therapy 

Contact an Addiction Therapist at Concise Recovery

Are you seeking a secure, sympathetic addiction recovery center? Reach out to us at Concise Recovery to learn more about our addiction recovery services. We are here to assist!