How Does Addiction Develop Over Time? – Credihealth Blog

Over 16% of adults in England drink more than they should, with 1.2% likely drinking enough to suggest a dependence on alcohol. Over 3% of adults in England show signs that they are dependent on drugs. All of those people have addiction in common, and one other thing – the same slow journey to becoming an addict. Addiction is all encompassing, but it never begins that way. Addiction never just happens overnight. 

“Addiction is just a way of trying to get at something else. Something bigger. Call it transcendence if you want, but it’s a rat in a maze. We all want the same thing. We all have this hole. The thing you want offers relief, but it’s a trap.” – Tes Callahan

As an addict you might wonder how you got to the position you are in, and the likelihood is that there was a very slow development of your addiction. Subtle changes may have been evident early on, and those signs were ignored, until the indications something was wrong became much more evident, but by that point, you’re not the one in control any more. 

A Slow Burner: The Journey To Addiction

Drug and alcohol addiction can be, at its most basic, stripped down to the reward circuit in the brain. The behaviour you do that gives you a chemical rush of pleasure, called dopamine, is repeated to get more of that same rush.

As time goes on, the brain adapts and slowly the amount of the drug, substance, behaviour or activity you did before to get high, isn’t enough. You become more tolerant and need more to get as high as you did before. You do more and more of the drug or behaviour to try and achieve the same high, but you’re slowly becoming tolerant to it, and eventually, reliant on it just to feel somewhat normal. 

At the same time, your ability to get pleasure from other things you once loved like your hobbies, social time, sex, or food, pale into insignificance. They don’t give you any pleasure any more. Only the behaviour or substance does. 

During this entire process, other key functions start to become impacted, such as: emotional regulation, behaviour, memory, decision making, learning and judgement. This is why, slowly, your standards across the board start to drop. You start neglecting personal hygiene, seeing your friends less, performing more poorly at your job. Everything you once wanted to do, and needed to do, fades in its relevance to you, as addiction takes hold and becomes central to your life. 

This animation posted on Youtube is a really great visual representation of the addiction process, showing how positively things begin, and how slowly, night turns to dark and the addiction takes hold. 

The Four Stages Of Addiction

A lot of experts believe that there are four stages of addiction. It’s helpful to understand them so as to get an idea of what to look out for in yourself, or in loved ones you suspect may have an issue with addiction. Here are the four stages of addiction and what they commonly involve: 

The first period of trying drugs or alcohol and only getting positive or exciting results, or even no outcome at all. At this stage you can usually stop the behaviour yourself, although some individuals will continue because it feels good, or it helps them to manage emotional or physical issues. 

This tends to be the decider when it comes to whether a person will progress onto more extreme addiction, or not. Although some people can use drugs and alcohol at this stage without becoming dependent, many people do become dependent. The risk of high-risk behaviours like unprotected sex, drink-driving and more, become more likely. 

At this stage, addicts may feel that their addiction is manageable and they consider themselves to be functioning. There may be some worry or concern, but that may be passed off in order to justify the addictive behaviour which at the moment, seems to have no real negative consequences. 

It is hard to say when the addiction becomes high-risk, but for many people they have come close to lots of dangerous or problematic situations because of their addiction at this stage. Or, they have actively lost friends, lost jobs, taken scary and dangerous risks like drink driving with children in the car, or taking drugs in the bathroom at work, and they may have been caught doing so, or even themselves or others. 

This is the tipping point where the addiction has truly taken hold, and you care less about the consequences of prioritising it. 

This is where you are completely dependent on the behaviour, drug or alcohol, and you likely no longer derive any pleasure from it. Instead, you have to consume it to function.

When you don’t take the drug or drink, you find yourself panicky, shaky, sweaty and entirely consumed by needing to get your next hit. At this stage, you may well have open conversations with friends, family and medical experts about your condition and the risk it poses to you, but you’re unable to stop the behaviour on your own despite knowing the risks. You might even feel you don’t care about the risks any more because the addiction has such a stronghold, and recovery may seem impossible. 

Sadly, if addiction is not tackled a person will likely succumb to it eventually. This may be through poisoning of the body, seen in the 4,500+ drug-related deaths in England and Wales annually (around 50% from opiate use and 9.7% from cocaine addiction) and over 7,000 deaths from alcohol misuse. 

Bodily neglect can also cause people to pass away from issues caused by the addiction, but not the addiction itself. They may not seek doctors appointments for signs of cancer, malnutrition may occur or they may not manage medical conditions well. 

A person may also succumb to risk-taking behaviours that can result in death, such as drink-driving. Other non-favourable outcomes like going to prison, becoming homeless, struggling with severe depression and more, can all also occur when an addiction is severe and treatment is not sought. 

Sadly, some people lose absolutely everything to addiction in the end. 

Also Read: Looking To Recover From An Addiction Problem: Here Are 10 Strategies To Help You.

 A Chance At A Better Life: The Journey To Recovery

Drug and alcohol addiction is complex, and no matter what your journey has been to where you are now, and which stage of addiction you find yourself in, recovery can give you a better future. 

Quitting usually takes more than willpower and the best intentions alone. Most people need the help of excellent, professional drug rehabilitation treatment provided by an experienced and compassionate team. 

Why not speak to Infinity Addiction Solutions today about the various private addiction services available to you. Online services, dayhab, inpatient programmes and more, are all available at the touch of a button. 

Your journey to addiction has slowly escalated, but your next steps to a better life can begin almost immediately. Make today the day that you enhance your future prospects and move towards the healthy, clean life you deserve. 

Disclaimer: The statements, opinions, and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Credihealth and the editor(s). 

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