What Are the Stages of Alcoholism?

What Are the Stages of Alcoholism?

Alcoholism is a disease of the brain often characterized by compulsive alcohol use despite the negative consequences it can cause. Understanding the early, middle, and late stages of alcoholism can help you determine whether you’re addicted or at risk.

The Early Stages of Alcoholism

The early stages of alcoholism are initiation and experimentation. For those who will become addicted, the early stages begin the first time they use alcohol.

Initiation is the initial introduction to drinking, and it commonly occurs in adolescence. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, around 33 percent of teens have experimented with alcohol by the age of 15, and by the age of 18, around 60 percent of teens have used alcohol.

Experimentation occurs when you begin to use alcohol more regularly, such as drinking at the bar on the weekends or drinking at parties or during sporting events or concerts. Initially, this experimentation is a social activity that’s associated with having good times with friends.

The Middle Stages of Alcoholism

The middle stages of alcoholism occur when alcohol use begins to cause problems in your life, such as relationship, legal, health, and financial problems. This is when social drinking becomes problematic drinking, also known as alcohol abuse. Binge drinking is a form of alcohol abuse that occurs when you drink enough in the space of two hours to bring your blood alcohol level up to .08 percent. For women, this is typically four drinks, and for men, it’s typically five.

People abuse alcohol for a variety of reasons, including to relax, reduce stress, cope with difficult memories or emotions, or medicate mental illness symptoms like anxiety or depression. People in the middle stages of alcoholism begin to drink more often, and they may drink alone. They will often try to hide the extent of their drinking from others, and they may begin to worry that they have a drinking problem.

The Late Stages of Alcoholism

The late stages of alcohol addiction occur when alcohol addiction and dependence develop. Addiction is caused by brain changes that lead to compulsive drinking despite the problems it’s causing in your life. Dependence is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that set in when you stop drinking suddenly. Both addiction and dependence are the result of changes in brain function.

Once an addiction develops, willpower won’t be enough to quit for good. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction almost always requires professional help to overcome. That’s because in order to successfully treat it, you must address the underlying causes, which often include chronic stress, mental illness and a history of trauma.

Alcoholism Treatment Works

Alcoholism is a progressive disease. Once it develops, it will only grow worse until it’s successfully treated through a quality holistic rehab program. Treatment addresses underlying issues of body, mind, and spirit for whole-person healing.

Successful recovery depends on developing essential coping skills for handling cravings, stress and other relapse triggers. It depends on learning to have a good time without needing alcohol to do it. And it requires changing dysfunctional thought and behavior patterns so that you think and behave in healthier ways.

If you’ve developed alcoholism or you feel you’re on your way to becoming addicted, a high quality treatment program can help. Treatment helps you reclaim your life on many fronts, end the alcohol abuse and find purpose and meaning in a life of sobriety for a happier, healthier life for the long-haul.

Drug Rehab: Where to Go in Florida

Drug Rehab: Where to Go in Florida

If you, a family member, or friend is suffering from addiction, it’s important to take action right away and seek out professional service. When a person has asthma or a heart condition, they seek out a qualified healthcare provider. Similarly, when a person experiences a drug abuse disorder or addiction, they must seek out healthcare providers who specialize in addiction medicine.

Addiction specialists and therapists provide professional medical care for suffering individuals at a drug rehab. If you want to get help for your substance abuse problem in the state of Florida, think seriously about Broward County. This region and its addiction treatment centers have much to offer people suffering from addiction. In essence, it’s a fine place to begin your recovery journey.

Why Is Addiction Treatment Important?

Addiction is a multi-type disease that requires multi-type treatments. A substance addiction is not a condition that individuals can typically manage without help. People who are addicted to alcohol, prescription drugs, or illicit drugs face powerful dependencies on these substances that involve physical, mental, and behavioral aspects.

A chronic disease, substance addiction also tends to be progressive. Without treatment, it will worsen and the individual will invariably experience a worsening of mental and physical health as well as a reduced quality of life. Addiction treatment can stop addiction in its tracks. With treatment, individuals learn to manage this disease and can master strategies for preventing relapse.

How Can South Florida Addiction Treatments Help Addiction Sufferers

Many cities and communities in South Florida have witnessed how powerful and destructive addiction to drugs or alcohol can be. Recovery centers like Recovery In Tune offer many different treatments for individuals suffering from substance addiction. Treatments like medical detox, individual counseling, group counseling, and family therapy can help individuals overcome their dependencies on drugs or alcohol so they can meet their goals for long-term recovery. Broward County, in particular, is home to many inpatient and intensive outpatient treatment programs. Individuals can choose a rehab and program that suits their needs and situation.

The Benefits of Recovering in Broward County, Florida

Broward County is the second most populous county in Florida. Not surprisingly, it has many resources to offer people suffering from health conditions like addiction. Aside from its world-class rehabs and evidence-based addiction treatment programs, it also features many aftercare programs designed to help people on their recovery journey. People have many options for ongoing care ranging from counseling to participation in 12-step programs.

Additionally, the bright sunshine, sub-tropical climate, beaches, and landscapes can play a role in a person’s recovery. A focus on fitness, holistic living, and new activities can promote a recovering individual’s lifestyle changes and overall well-being.

Visit communities like Davie in Broward County to discover what treatment centers like Recovery In Tune have to offer. After checking in for treatment, addiction specialists can help individuals find the right program for their needs. If you or a loved one is suffering from substance addiction, be sure to explore all the Broward County and its renowned rehab centers have to offer.

Signs of Meth Use: Is My Friend Using?

Signs of Meth Use: Is My Friend Using?

Methamphetamine, more commonly known as meth, is a powerfully addictive stimulant that users take in powder, pill, or crystal “rock” form. This drug is typically eaten, snorted, or injected.

Addiction specialists have asserted that meth is one of the most destructive illicit drugs abused today. It is associated with high relapse rates and addiction to it can be incredibly challenging to manage, but with intensive treatment, people can move away from the grip of this drug. If you’re concerned that a friend or loved one is abusing meth, the following information can help.

Signs and Symptoms of Meth Use

Spotting traces of meth powder or crystals or paraphernalia like syringes is an obvious sign that a friend or family member is using meth. Absent these more tangible proofs, it’s still possible to determine if someone is abusing a dangerous drug like methamphetamine.

People who abuse meth often appear highly energized but also nervous and anxious. Meth abusers will often go days without sleeping and will suffer excessive weight loss. A person who chronically abuses this drug can appear gaunt and undernourished as a result of their loss of appetite.

Other Signs of Meth Abuse

Meth contains caustic chemicals that can wreak havoc on multiple aspects of the body. It’s not uncommon for a person addicted to meth to have rotting teeth or other major dental problems. Users can develop painful sores on their face because the drug makes them itch and causes them to pick at scabs or other blemishes. Meth abuse can lead to the development of serious mental disorders like anxiety, depression, and paranoia. Psychotic symptoms are not uncommon among meth abusers.

Other signs of meth use are behavioral in nature. It isn’t uncommon for a person addicted to meth to experience serious financial and legal problems. Meth cravings are so powerful that many abusers have committed crimes in order to obtain the drug. People addicted to meth may also engage in extremely risky behaviors like having unprotected sex or sharing needles.

Finally, a person addicted to this drug can quickly reach a point where they are incapable of maintaining a job or their studies. Addiction takes over their life to a point where even basic hygiene and other aspects of personal responsibility are beyond that individual’s capabilities.

Importance of Treatment

If you suspect that a friend or family member is abusing meth, it’s important to convince them to seek out treatment at an addiction treatment center. Addiction to powerful drugs like meth are associated with significant rates of overdose, but meth can also quickly take a toll on a person’s physical and mental health, causing lasting damage. It may be necessary to stage an intervention in order to help this individual get into rehab.

Meth has one of the highest rates of relapse because it is so incredibly addictive. The sooner a person gets into the treatment, the sooner they can manage the mental, physical, and behavioral dependencies on this drug. If you want to learn more about treatment or how to stage an intervention for a friend or loved one, be sure to contact Recovery In Tune for more information.

What Is a Mental Health Center?

What Is a Mental Health Center?

A mental health center is a facility that typically offers inpatient and outpatient services designed for people suffering from mental health conditions. A mental health center is generally staffed by licensed psychiatrists, certified medical providers, therapists, counselors, and support staff. People suffering from a wide range of mental and mood disorders can visit a mental health facility to get individualized healthcare for their needs.

What Conditions Are Treated at a Mental Health Center?

A mental health center like Recovery In Tune specializes in helping people suffering from dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis or concurrent disorders, as they are also dubbed, involves a substance addiction as well as a mental health or mood disorder such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome, or obsessive compulsion disorder. Traditional mental health centers will also treat individuals suffering from other mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, panic disorder, social anxiety, eating disorders, and other serious chronic conditions that require specialized treatment.


People suffering from mental health symptoms may not know what disorder they have. Those with an addiction might not be aware that they also have a mental health disorder. When entering a mental healthcare facility, individuals will be evaluated so that medical caregivers can make a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is made, the center’s healthcare providers can recommend a treatment plan. During evaluation, individuals are asked many questions and may be subjected to various tests. The point of these measures is to determine exactly what the person is suffering from in order to provide them with the best possible care.

Inpatient and Outpatient Treatment Programs

Depending on a patient’s needs, they can seek inpatient or outpatient treatment at a mental health center. A person with a dual diagnosis may initially require inpatient treatment for their condition. Treatments like medical detox, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication can help those manage their conditions and, ideally, prevent them from worsening. The goal for medical caregivers is to help each person manage their condition(s).

After inpatient treatment, patients often transition to outpatient treatment and therapy. Outpatient treatment addresses each individual’s mental health needs. It might involve individual counseling, group counseling, and possibly even family therapy.

Disease Management

Many mental disorders including addiction cannot be cured. The goal of a treatment center is to help people suffering from mental health problems to manage their condition in order to prevent relapse. Disease management takes many forms; it might involve medication, conventional therapies like counseling, or alternative therapies like medication and restorative yoga. Effective disease management involving many mental health conditions is possible and often occurs with treatment.

Today’s mental health centers feature evidence-based therapies that have demonstrated their ability to help people suffering from various disorders. Some supplement their offerings with alternative treatments that have been shown to be effective. If you suspect you have a mental or mood disorder, you can visit a mental healthcare center to be evaluated and helped. Many conditions will get worse without treatment, so the sooner you get into treatment, the better you will feel.

Is Non-12-Step Rehab an Option for Addiction Treatment?

Is Non-12-Step Rehab an Option for Addiction Treatment?

Popular 12-step programs for substance addiction have helped many individuals on their road to recovery, but these programs are not ideal for everyone. Fortunately, there is more than one path to a life of sobriety. Non-12-step rehab programs include evidence-based treatments as well as compelling alternative addiction treatments that can be effective for relapse prevention.

Why the 12-Step Model Might Not Be Right for You

Although many people have achieved sobriety with the 12-step recovery model, others have various reasons for choosing an alternative non-12-step rehab for treatment. Many 12-step programs like AA and NA have spiritual aspects that a non-religious individual may be uncomfortable with.

Many of these programs also have a strong component of shame and guilt built into their platforms that does not resonate well with some individuals who are seeking help and not condemnation. In addition, many people suffering from addiction feel uneasy about relying on the volunteer counselors who typically lead or mentor 12-step groups.

If you are in search of a more evidence-based, scientific approach to addiction treatment, you may want to consider a non-12-step rehab.

Why Choose a Non-12-Step Rehab

A non-12-step rehab treatment platform typically features evidence-based therapies that focus on the modern understanding of the psychological, physical and behavioral aspects of addiction. While the differences between one non-12-step rehab and another may be significant, these treatment plans often feature substantially more one-on-one counseling and place a value on honesty over guilt and shame.

In addition, many non-12-step rehab programs feature alternative addiction treatments like family therapy, art therapy, equine therapy or restorative yoga. When combined with individual counseling, these therapies can have a holistic effect on the individual that leads to improved chances for successful relapse prevention.

What to Look for in a Non-12-Step Rehab

If you want to begin your recovery journey with a non-12-step rehab program, you should be aware that there are many choices available. You can begin your search by consulting your healthcare provider. They may have a referral network in place and can help you find a non-12-step rehab that suits your needs.

When attempting to decide between treatment programs, keep in mind that “non-12-step rehab” is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide variety of treatment platforms. Some of these programs have a strong focus on medical-based therapies and relapse prevention. Some focus on behavioral therapy. Some focus on spiritual psychology or secular recovery. Additionally, you may want to find a rehab that includes detox among its offerings and a choice between inpatient and intensive outpatient treatments.

If you have misgivings about traditional 12-step programs, you aren’t alone. Many people suffering from substance addiction are opting for evidence-based, non-12-step rehab programs that have proven methodologies and are staffed by licensed addiction specialists and credentialed healthcare providers. However, there is no reason you can’t include participation in a 12-step program as a form of aftercare once you complete your inpatient or outpatient rehab program.

In What States Can You Force Someone Into Rehab?

In What States Can You Force Someone Into Rehab?

Many families concerned about a loved one suffering from addiction have wondered what states can you force someone into rehab. Laws regarding involuntary commitment for addiction treatment have followed a long and winding road since the first was legislated in 1812.

Currently, most states have involuntary commitment laws for substance use disorders. A few states also have involuntary commitment laws for substance use disorders only and states with involuntary commitment laws for specifically alcoholism only. While some states do not currently have laws of this nature, many are now considering adopting them. Several states are currently in the process of revising their laws in response to the increasing numbers of people dying from alcohol or drug overdose.

About Involuntary Commitment Laws

Many states have adopted laws that allow parties who are closely connected to individuals suffering from addiction to petition for the involuntary commitment of the addicted individual. Generally speaking—and it should be noted that requirements for these laws differ considerably between states—family members may file a petition for their loved one to be placed in rehab if that person has threatened to harm themselves or someone else or if they can no longer provide for their basic needs.

Currently, 37 states have created statutes that allow individuals suffering from addiction to be detained against their will for a short period of time even if they have committed no crime. Nuances of law aside, many families simply want to know in which states can you force someone into rehab in order to save their lives?

In What States Can You Force Someone Into Rehab?

Currently, the states that allow for involuntary commitment for alcoholism or substance use disorder are: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Family Is Valuable

If you’ve asked in what states can you force someone into rehab, these are the states that currently have laws on the books. Some states not currently listed, such as New Jersey, Alabama and Maryland, are debating measures to put in place.

Pros and Cons of Involuntary Commitment Laws

Having wondered in what states you can force someone into rehab, you might also be wondering why some states have not created these laws. There is criticism from some quarters that these laws infringe on individuals’ rights, especially if the involuntary commitment extends beyond medical detox.

Some experts believe that involuntary commitment increases the chance for overdose upon release from rehab; many individuals who leave rehab after a short stay may not have the desire to abstain or the necessary relapse-prevention skills to promote long-term recovery.

Even so, when families are faced with the strong possibility that their loved one is in danger, they often have no other option except to petition a healthcare provider or the courts to involuntarily commit their loved one to an addiction treatment center. If you are contemplating this decision concerning a loved one or if you are concerned that your family might be considering this step, research the specific statutes associated with your state.

The Late Stages of Addiction: Addiction and Dependence

The Late Stages of Addiction: Addiction and Dependence

This is part three of the four-part series The Stages of Addiction. Read part two, The Middle Stages of Addiction: Substance Abuse


The late stages of addiction begin when the addiction and dependence develop. Addiction and dependence are not the same thing. Addiction is characterized by compulsive drug or alcohol abuse despite the problems the abuse causes. Dependence is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that set in when you stop using a substance. Both are caused by brain changes resulting from chronic, heavy drug or alcohol abuse in the later stages of addiction.


In the later stages of addiction, drugs and alcohol change the activity of brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Different drugs act differently on the brain, but one thing they all have in common is that they produce a large dopamine rush.

Dopamine is a “feel-good” brain chemical that’s released when we engage in pleasurable activities like eating delicious food or having sex. It’s designed to keep us motivated to do these things, because in nature, these are the things that keep us alive and procreating.

The brain has natural thresholds for how much dopamine it releases during these types of activities. But when we use drugs, the dopamine system is hijacked, and far more dopamine than is natural is released in the brain, leading to feelings of intense euphoria and well-being.

In the late stages of addiction, the learning center of the brain begins to associate drug or alcohol use with this intense pleasure. Eventually, the area of the brain that governs the planning and execution of tasks becomes involved. The ultimate result is intense cravings and drug-seeking behaviors that lead to compulsive use despite the fact that using is causing problems in your life.

These brain changes in the late stages of addiction lead to dysfunctional patterns of thinking and behaving, which further perpetuate the addiction.

Signs and symptoms of addiction include:

  • Using more than you intended for longer periods than you intended
  • Spending a lot of time seeking, using and recovering from drugs or alcohol
  • Repeatedly neglecting duties at home, work or school
  • Experiencing relationship problems with friends, family, classmates or co-workers due to your substance use, but using anyway
  • Continuing to use drugs or alcohol despite experiencing physical or mental health problems related to your substance use
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Experiencing intense cravings for drugs or alcohol
  • Using drugs or alcohol in a way that puts you in hazardous situations
  • Wanting to cut down or quit but finding that you’re unable to


Once an addiction develops, professional help is almost always needed to end it for the long-term.


Dependence is also the result of brain changes caused by heavy substance abuse in the late stages of addiction. As heavy drug and alcohol use changes neurotransmitter activity, the brain attempts to compensate.

For example, alcohol increases the activity of the relaxation neurotransmitter GABA while decreasing the excitability neurotransmitter glutamate. With heavy abuse, the brain begins to reduce the activity of GABA and increase the activity of glutamate in an attempt to normalize brain function. This results in tolerance, which occurs in the late stages of addiction and is the main indication that dependence is developing.

Tolerance means that you need increasingly larger doses of drugs or alcohol to get the desired effects. But as you increase the dose, the brain continues to compensate, and your tolerance continues to increase, leading again to larger doses. At some point, brain function may shift so that it now operates more comfortably when drugs or alcohol are present. Then, when you stop using, normal brain function rebounds, and this leads to physical withdrawal symptoms.


Read the final entry of this series, Addiction Is Progressive—But Treatable, or download the entire series as a fully illustrated eBook, The Stages of Addiction.

The Early Stages of Addiction: Initiation and Experimentation

The Early Stages of Addiction: Initiation and Experimentation

The Stages of Addiction

Addiction is a chronic and progressive disease of the brain, and it’s largely misunderstood. To better understand how addiction develops, it’s important to understand the stages of addiction, which can begin in childhood, adolescence or adulthood. Interventions during the early, middle or late stages of addiction can help individuals prevent the onset of addiction or recover fully once an addiction has developed.

The Early Stages of Addiction: Initiation and Experimentation

The stages of addiction start when an individual first begins using drugs or alcohol. Whether the early stages of use will lead to an addiction depends on a number of factors. Initiation and experimentation are the earliest stages of addiction.


Initiation is the initial introduction to drugs or alcohol. This stage typically occurs during the teenage years. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 7.3 percent of eighth graders, 19.9 percent of tenth graders and 33.2 percent of twelfth graders used alcohol in the past month. Likewise, 5.4 percent of eighth graders, 14 percent of tenth graders and 22.5 percent of twelfth graders used marijuana in the past 30 days.

Children naturally assert their independence as they mature. They seek new challenges and take new risks, and these risks often include trying alcohol, marijuana or other drugs. Additionally, peer pressure, curiosity and the desire to feel independent can lead to the initiation stage of addiction.

Research shows that the earlier the initiation, the greater the risk of developing a substance use disorder down the road and the faster the stages of addiction will likely develop.


The experimentation stage of addiction is characterized by using substances more regularly in particular situations, such as during parties, at the bar on the weekends or after a tough day on the job.

During the experimentation stages of addiction, substance use is largely a social endeavor associated with friends, relaxation and fun times. There are no cravings, and using is a conscious choice, usually guided by what’s happening socially.

Risk Factors for Addiction

Addiction almost always has underlying causes. Some people are at a higher risk of becoming addicted than others starting from childhood. Around half of the risk of addiction is genetic, and the other half is environmental. Research shows that events and experiences in infancy and childhood have an important impact on later stages of addiction. Additionally, mental illness and chronic stress can be powerful motivators for substance abuse.

The stages of addiction often begin with childhood trauma, when children develop unhealthy coping skills or a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. While trauma at any age can lead to substance abuse as a way to cope, childhood trauma—physical and sexual abuse, neglect and witnessing violence—dramatically increases the risk of addiction later on, according to a study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety. The National Survey of Adolescents and other surveys show that more than 70 percent of adolescents in treatment for a substance use disorder had a history of trauma.

Mental illness is also an important risk factor for substance abuse and addiction. People with mental illnesses like anxiety or mood disorders often use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate unpleasant symptoms. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people who are diagnosed with a mental illness are around twice as likely as the general population to also have a substance use disorder. Similarly, people who are diagnosed with a substance use disorder are around twice as likely as the general population to also have a mood or anxiety disorder.

Chronic stress is another common underlying cause of addiction. This is the kind of stress that comes from living with poverty, abuse or family dysfunction. People who are under constant stress are likely to use drugs and alcohol to relax and numb unpleasant emotions.


Read part two of this four part series, The Middle Stages of Addiction: Substance Abuse, or download the entire series as a fully illustrated eBook, The Stages of Addiction.

What Is a Rehab Loan?

What Is a Rehab Loan?

For many people who suffer from a substance addiction, getting help isn’t a matter of willingness; it’s a matter of money. Many health insurance providers only pay partial costs for addiction treatment, depending on whether the facility is in network or out of network. Many individuals struggling with addiction may not have health insurance or may not have the required funds needed to pay for their much-needed treatment.

This has been an ongoing problem that treatment centers and healthcare facilities all over the country have been keen to solve. One way that individuals are paying for addiction treatment is with a rehab loan. While no one enjoys taking on extra debt, this type of loan is an investment in health, an investment in a future. If you are addicted to alcohol or drugs, a rehab loan could be your solution to paying for treatment.

What Is a Rehab Loan?

A rehab loan is essentially a personal loan that you can use to pay for your stay in rehab. Loans allow people to finance treatment that they might otherwise be unable to afford.

Some people prefer the funds of this loan to be paid straight to the addiction treatment center. Some individuals might take out a home equity loan to pay for treatment. Some treatment facilities offer rehab loans and financing options for clients or can help individuals locate lenders who specialize in rehab loans.

Will a Bank Extend Me a Loan If They Know It’s for Rehab?

A person’s health is a private affair. It’s not surprising that a person would be loath to share information regarding a health concern with a banker or loan officer. So, individuals applying for their rehab loan are left with this perplexing situation: Do I tell them that I’m using the money for addiction treatment or do I make up some other reason for needing the money?

Fortunately, there are lenders today that will finance addiction treatment in the form of a rehab loan. Lending programs designed for people suffering from addiction will take financial history into consideration. If you qualify for a rehab loan then you may also qualify for low interest rates, depending on your credit score.

You Shouldn't Be Afraid To Finance Your Treatment

If you apply with a traditional bank, you may be asked to supply a reason for your request. However, some banks don’t factor that into consideration. Instead, many banks are primarily interested in your current income and expenses, employment history, credit score and repayment history that may be associated with any previous loans. If they extend you a loan, they may not be concerned what you intend to use it for.

Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Finance Your Treatment

Taking out a loan for addiction treatment is an investment in your health and your future. People take out loans for all sorts of reasons—to buy a new car, build a garage, pay for school or take a trip. Your health is the worthiest reason to request a loan. Financing rehab also means you don’t have to fund it with high-interest credit cards or by tapping family or friends for financial assistance.

Recovery In Tune can help clients find resources to secure financing. If you do choose to finance your treatment, you’ll be funding a treatment that has the power to save your life. That’s money well spent.

Addiction Is Progressive—But Treatable

Addiction Is Progressive—But Treatable

This is the final part of the four-part series, The Stages of Addiction. Read part three, The Late Stages of Addiction: Addiction and Dependence


Addiction is widely considered to be a chronic disease of the brain. While choice is initially a factor in the early and middle addiction stages, once the addiction sets in, it’s marked by physical and chemical brain changes that lead to compulsive use. At this point, choice is no longer a factor in the substance abuse. While addiction can be sent into remission during recovery, using again after a period of abstinence can quickly lead back to the stages of addiction marked again by altered brain function and compulsive use despite negative consequences.

Addiction is progressive. It will continue to grow worse with time, as brain changes continue to affect thought and behavior patterns and compulsive use affects all areas of an addicted individual’s life. During the late stages of addiction, individuals are at an increased risk of serious medical problems, including overdose and death.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse stresses that good intentions and willpower are rarely enough to end the stages of addiction to drugs or alcohol for the long-term. Professional help is almost always needed.

Professional Detox: The First Step of Rehab

For those who are dependent on drugs or alcohol, medical detox will be the first phase of treatment. Detox is the process of allowing all traces of drugs or alcohol to leave the body so that brain function can begin to return to normal.

Professional detox is supervised by medical and mental health professionals who administer medication as needed to help reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms associated with the late addiction stages and prevent or treat dangerous symptoms like seizures or spikes in blood pressure and heart rate.

The detox process may take a few days or a few weeks, depending on factors like the drug in question, how much is in the body at the time of detox, the length and severity of the dependence and an individual’s biology and general state of health.

Addiction Treatment: A Holistic Approach Is Best

Addiction is far more complex than dependence and requires intensive therapy to end for the long-term. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, during any of the addiction stages, a holistic approach to treatment offers the best outcomes.

This approach addresses issues of body, mind and spirit for whole-person healing. It involves a variety of both traditional “talk” therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, and complementary therapies, such as art or nature therapy.

Through therapy, individuals in treatment:

  • Identify and learn to change unhealthy thought and behavior patterns
  • Address any co-occurring medical or mental illnesses
  • Develop coping skills for handling stress, cravings and other triggers
  • Address the underlying issues behind the addiction
  • Learn about addiction stages and the process of recovery
  • Repair relationships damaged by the addiction
  • Restore function to the family system
  • Address a variety of needs, such as vocational, educational, financial or legal needs
  • Learn to relax and have fun without drugs or alcohol
  • Find purpose and meaning in a life of abstinence


In general, inpatient treatment offers the best outcomes and involves living at a residential rehab facility while in treatment. But outpatient treatment can work for people who have intrinsic motivation to recover, live in a safe and stable household and have a high level of support at home and in the community. Either way, the National Institute on Drug Abuse stresses that treatment for all stages of addiction should last for an adequate period of time. Anything less than 90 days is of limited effectiveness, according to research.

Rehab works for most people who engage with their treatment plan, stay in treatment for its duration and engage with the aftercare plan that’s implemented once treatment is complete. If you or someone you love is experiencing any of the stages of addiction, treatment can help you end substance abuse for good while restoring your life on many fronts. Treatment transforms lives, and it can transform yours, too.


Download this entire series as a fully illustrated eBook, The Stages of Addiction