What You Need to Know About the 5 Stages of Addiction

Today, more than 40 million people in the United States over age 12 are grappling with an addiction to alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. With overdoses on the rise and a growing opioid epidemic affecting millions around the country, it’s more important than ever to be able to spot and treat substance abuse early on.

If you suspect that you or a loved one has a drug problem, it’s important you learn how to recognize the different stages of addiction and the ways to take the proper action against them. Sadly, the path from drug experimentation to a full-blown addiction can easily be a downward spiral. Five major stages of drug addiction manifest along this spiral. Below are some of the most common factors of each phase and recommendations on how to help users that are dealing with the five different stages of drug addiction.

Stage 1: Experimentation

Common signs:

People usually start experimenting with drugs during their teenage years. More than half of first-time drug users try substances before they turn 18 years old. They are often initiated or pressured into trying drugs by a friend, and at this point, they still consider the experience to be fun and entertaining.

More than half of first-time drug users start to experiment with marijuana first. Substance use during this phase is not frequent and typically happens during social gatherings. Experimental users don’t have cravings and feel like they are in total control of their drug use. They can choose to stop using drugs whenever they want and can go for long periods without them.

How to treat this stage:

For some, drug experimentation never leads to substance abuse problems later on. For others, it can be the first step toward establishing a long-term addiction. Monitoring the frequency of drug use early on is an important step toward preventing more routine use in the future.

A good approach early on in drug experimentation is to ask the person why they are experimenting in the first place. If they are using drugs to cope with pain or emotional issues, try offering other solutions to the problem such as counseling or therapy.

Stage 2: Regular Use

Common signs:

At this stage, substance use becomes part of a routine for users. It doesn’t necessarily mean drugs are used on a daily basis, but there is a repeated pattern of behavior such as using drugs every weekend or at every party. Users also may start using drugs repeatedly to help them cope with a particular situation such as when they are stressed out or have feelings of depression.

Regular users no longer need to be in a social setting to do drugs and begin to use substances when they are alone, too. They may also start experiencing drug hangovers the day after doing drugs, which may cause them to miss work or school occasionally. Regular users still appear to function normally but start displaying certain changes in behavior including defiance, depression, aggression, and anxiety.

How to treat this stage:

If a regular user has already tried counseling without positive results, it might be time to try going to an outpatient facility for treatment.

With outpatient care, users typically visit a clinic for regular, scheduled appointments with medical professionals that can last anywhere from one to eight hours. The treatment is similar to what a person would receive at an inpatient facility, but with the added benefit that they do not have to leave their homes.

Outpatient programs include cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, stress management, motivational incentives, group therapy, and individual and family therapy.

Outpatient care works best for users who are still in good health, have a stable living situation, and a strong network of supportive loved ones. “The strongest thing that is helpful is having a system of care that can surround the person,” says Dr. Kelly Clark, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).

Stage 3: Risk-Taking Use

Common signs:

During the risk-taking stage, users start to lose control of their drug use and start engaging in dangerous activities to fulfill their habit. Their drug use starts to negatively impact their job performance, grades, personal relationships, and financial well being.

At this hazardous stage, it’s not unusual for users to:

    • Drive under the influence
    • Have unprotected sex
    • Get arrested
    • Lose their job
    • Spend irresponsible amounts of money on substances
    • Break up with partners and end friendships
    • Lie to loved ones

Physical symptoms in a risk-tasking user start to become more noticeable. Risky users often experience changes in weight, problems with memory, and poor coordination skills. Users at this stage often realize they already have a substance abuse problem but might still refuse to get help or treatment, even though they are aware their drug use is negatively affecting their lives. Risk-taking drug users begin to experience intense cravings for drugs, and the possibility of quitting seems much more difficult than it did in the past.

How to treat this stage:

For those in the risk-taking stage, inpatient rehabilitation in a residential setting might be a better option for treatment than therapy and/or outpatient facilities. Users who have started engaging in reckless behavior can benefit from going to a short-term, inpatient program that will help remove them from situations where they are constantly tempted to do drugs. It can also help them avoid negative influences and people who have contributed to their addiction. The length of stay for a user at a short-term inpatient facility can vary anywhere from a few days to up to 30 days.

At an inpatient rehab, users are provided with round-the-clock care including but not limited to: individual counseling sessions, family counseling, group therapy, medical care, and medication management. Inpatient care is recommended for those who feel unable to stop their drug use without being in a safe, supervised, and drug-free environment. Once their inpatient treatment is over, users usually continue their recovery with outpatient care and counseling.

Stage 4: Dependence

Common signs:

Users at this stage have become physically dependent on drugs. Their brain’s chemistry has now become accustomed to regular drug use and is unable to function normally without it. Dependent drug users suffer from constant cravings for substances as well as intense withdrawal symptoms that depend on their drug of choice and can include: nausea, shaking, sweating, muscle pain, rapid heart rate, and even seizures. Dependent users have created a much higher tolerance for drugs and now need much higher doses of the substance than before to get high. These users are aware they are physically and psychologically dependent on drugs, but the possibility of stopping drug use can seem impossible without outside help. Relapse often occurs for users who try to quit substance abuse on their own at this stage.

How to treat this stage:

Once a user has become physically dependent on substances, their body might need to go through drug detoxification first. At a drug detox center, users go through the withdrawal process of drug addiction in a safe, monitored environment. They are also provided with medications to help ease withdrawal symptoms and minimize discomfort. Going through detoxification first increases a user’s chance of staying sober. Those who detox safely from drug dependency are also more likely to seek treatment at inpatient and outpatient facilities immediately after detoxification. Drug detox programs are recommended for users who have become physically dependent on substances and those who have been abusing drugs for long stretches of time.

Stage 5: Addiction

Common signs:

Users in the addiction stage of substance abuse have become completely and utterly dependent on drugs. Addicted users can’t imagine life without using drugs and will do almost anything to get their hands on them. Cravings have become unbearable, and it often feels like the only way to survive is to consume more substances. The search for more drugs dominates a user’s daily activities.Users are compulsively dependent on their drug abuse and can suffer from chronic relapses when trying to quit their substance abuse.

The lives of stage five addicts are often chaotic and out of control.

How to treat this stage:

A variety of treatment options are available for people who have become completely addicted to drugs. A hospital inpatient treatment facility can provide several different levels of care for addicts.

Users who are hospitalized first go through medically supervised detoxes, in which severe withdrawal symptoms are managed and eased. Medications to help manage their addiction, such as methadone and Suboxone may also be provided.

Users are also required to attend individual counseling sessions to understand the root of their addiction and to help them avoid psychological relapses in the future.

Hospital inpatient facilities are beneficial to most substance users but are typically aimed toward users who are addicted to substances with severe withdrawal symptoms and long-term substance abusers.

There are also long-term residential drug treatment programs for those who feel like they need a lengthier, more dedicated type form of treatment. In this type of housing facility, users often stay in treatment for at least 90 days, regularly attending counseling, group therapy, and educational classes on drug abuse. Medication management is also available.

Addiction can seem like a tough battle to fight, but it’s important to know it is possible to overcome. As is the case with most diseases, the sooner an addiction is diagnosed and treated, the higher the chance of recovery. Drug addiction doesn’t have to become a lifelong struggle, with the right amount of support and proper course of treatment, addicts can regain control and live happy and fulfilling lives.

Start Addiction Recovery at Arete

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and would like to explore your recovery options, Arete Recovery can help you today. Call us now at 855-781-9939 or connect with us online to speak with one of our recovery specialists who can match you or your loved one to the right treatments to return to a life of health, sobriety, and fulfillment.

Why Do People Use Cocaine to Treat ADHD?

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental mental disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. ADHD is characterized by a low attention span, high energy, and uncontrollable behavior, and occurs in about five to seven percent of children, with approximately half of those children diagnosed carrying their ADHD into their adult years.

As a stimulant, cocaine has a very unique effect on those affected by ADHD. To understand the effects of cocaine on someone with ADHD, it is important to understand what cocaine actually is, what it does to the brain, and how it interacts with the chronic mental disorder.


More commonly referred to as simply “coke,” cocaine is a potent, illicit stimulant generally used and abused recreationally. When consumed, cocaine blocks the recycling of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the brain. Through snorting, smoking, and even intravenous administration via injecting a solution into a vein, cocaine is one of the most dangerous and readily-available drugs that you can buy on the street.

Stimulants are extremely common and can come in multiple forms. From tablets to powder to capsules, consuming cocaine can lead to a short-lived feeling of happiness followed by intense cravings and withdrawals, urging the person to use again. Stimulants can be physically and psychologically addicting, and repeated use of stimulants (cocaine even more so) quickly leads to the building of a tolerance and ultimately an addiction.

Cocaine offers a short but intense high in which the user usually feels numb and energetic, causing them to engage in dangerous activities that would have previously seemed dangerous. Because it has such powerful effects, medical use for cocaine is legal in the United States, in the solution form.

ADHD and Cocaine

It is not uncommon for an addict that seeks cocaine addiction treatment to also be diagnosed with ADHD. The impulsiveness and spontaneity associated with having ADHD make the risk of developing addiction much higher, as the user will sometimes not think about the drawbacks. A Brazilian team of researchers studied the connection between ADHD and cocaine addiction; surprisingly, there was little to no correlation to ADHD and addiction/dependency.

While there is no direct difference in drug addiction among those that do and do not have ADHD, it was noted that:

  • Those diagnosed with ADHD begin to use cocaine and similar drugs at a much younger age than those who do not have ADHD.
  • Those diagnosed with ADHD begin seeking cocaine addiction treatment sooner than those who do not have ADHD.
  • Those diagnosed with ADHD that starting smoking cannabis and using cannabis-related products at a young age resulted in much more severe cocaine abuse problems later on.

Cocaine is a stimulant that produces effects similar to the stimulants usually prescribed to treat ADHD. Using cocaine causes a surge in dopamine, making up for the lack of dopamine in an ADHD-diagnosed user. Think of cocaine use for ADHD as producing the exact opposite effects of cocaine use in someone who doesn’t have ADHD. Whereas someone using cocaine that does not have ADHD will more than likely experience that classic “rush” and high energy, a user with ADHD will most likely give off signs of sedation. Blank stares, calmness, and daydreaming are common in cocaine users with ADHD, but the calmness does come with adverse effects.

Users of cocaine with ADHD will be relatively more irritable and become agitated quickly. This is due to the fact that, and I can personally vouch for this, the effects of ADHD medications, stimulants, in particular, are non-euphoric and are generally unpleasant. As someone who was prescribed Ritalin as a treatment for my ADHD, I can tell you firsthand that most of the effects associated with stimulants to treat ADHD are unpleasant and may often make the user experience depersonalization and a lack of motivation.

Should Cocaine be Considered?

The short answer is: no.

Cocaine, while it may offer a short-term way to negate the effects of ADHD, cocaine use is dangerous, and cocaine for ADHD should never be considered. If someone with ADHD is to engage in cocaine use as an attempt to “treat” their disorder, they put themselves at an extremely high risk to develop an addiction. Prescribed stimulant medications such as brands of methylphenidate and amphetamine are much safer, legal ways to curb the effects that ADHD may have on your life.

If you or someone you know suffers from cocaine addiction, it is extremely important to seek professional treatment immediately, especially in the dual diagnosis of ADHD and cocaine addiction. As more time passes that you do not seek treatment, the risk of overdose and even death exponentially increases. That’s why Arete Recovery is here to help. We offer a kindhearted staff of professional doctors, nurses, therapists, and case managers to ensure that recovery is done the right way. Call us today at (855) 781-9939 or contact us online to start taking back your sober life.

Addiction Recovery: Why Improving Self-Efficacy is the Key to Lasting Change

It’s easy to start a change, but it’s difficult to make it stick. If you’ve been to the gym in January and February, you have probably seen that fact first hand. New Year’s resolutions drive people to the gym in droves, much to the chagrin of regular attendees. However, as the year progresses, fewer people remain. Soon, it’s business as usual.

Making any real change is difficult and uncomfortable. Humans tend to gravitate toward habits and schedules as a way to live in the familiar. Plus, when we experience things that trigger the reward center in our brains, we crave more of that activity. From sugary foods to heroin, our brains are wired to make a note of all that trigger dopamine and endorphin release and crave them again. This can mean developing bad habits and even addiction. Resisting urges and cravings on a long-term basis means fighting against your own brain chemistry.

The best way to change your behavior is to first change your thinking. One of the most powerful tools in making changes, especially in addiction recovery, is self-efficacy. By building self-efficacy, you are more likely to resist the urge to relapse when faced with triggers and stressors that would have you revert to old habits.

What Is Self-Efficacy?

Self-efficacy is a general term that’s used in a number of settings. In the classroom, self-efficacy refers to a student’s belief in themselves. Teachers will often employ techniques to increase self-efficacy to improve their perseverance and motivation. The notion that believing in yourself is the key to change may sound like a cliche. However, in behavioral psychology, self-efficacy takes on a much deeper meaning, and the research shows that it’s the foundation for behavioral change.

The phrase was coined by Albert Bandura, a Stanford psychologist that studied the hypothesis that any form of behavioral treatment ultimately achieves change through altering self-efficacy in the 1970s. He suggests that increasing a person’s belief in their own ability to change will lead to many benefits including:

  • Making it more likely that positive coping behavior will be used
  • Increasing the effort expended in pursuit of change
  • Increasing the length of time you’re willing to expend effort
  • And perseverance through obstacles and drawbacks

In a 1999 paper on the cognitive-behavioral model (the model behind the most popular therapy for addiction), psychologist Alan Marlatt described self-efficacy as a person’s “mastery over their behavior.” Not only is self-efficacy a belief in yourself or in your abilities, but it’s your ability to resist relapse behaviors. The growth of this efficacy is essential to relapse prevention and achieving lasting sobriety.

Where Does Self-Efficacy Come From?

Throughout a person’s everyday life, they may experience things that increase or decrease their level of self-efficacy. Bandura identified four sources of self-efficacy that teachers and therapists use to help people take on challenges without giving up and stick with commitments. The four sources of self-efficacy include:

  • Mastery experiences. An experience in which you achieve success is the primary source of self-efficacy. When you achieve something, you are more likely to see yourself as capable the next time a challenge presents itself. Unfortunately, failures often do the opposite by tearing down efficacy. In behavioral therapies, you might learn to change negative thinking that focuses on failures.
  • Vicarious experience. Observing a friend’s achievement can also strengthen your beliefs in your ability. If sobriety or other goals seem too lofty to achieve, seeing someone close to your make progress or succeed can bring an astronomical challenge down to earth.
  • Verbal persuasion. Constructive communication and feedback can also boost self-efficacy. Addiction counselors, therapists, and support groups can provide encouragement that boosts a person’s efforts.
  • Psychological states. Your mood has a lot to do with your self-efficacy. Anxiety, depression, and frustration will erode your willingness to expend effort, while a positive mood can bolster your efforts. Because mood is so powerful, behavioral therapies often focus on healthy ways to handle the stress that might lead to a poor mood and ultimately, low self-efficacy.

Ways to Improve Self-Efficacy

Through addiction treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy, you can learn techniques to increase self-efficacy so you can handle triggers and cravings when you encounter them. In your daily life, several practices can help boost your self-efficacy. Social scientists Howard Margolis and Patrick P. Mccabe determined several tips for improving self-efficacy for teachers to use with students who are struggling. Several are applicable in addiction recovery and, in one way or another, they are often used in treatment. These tips include:

Set Challenging but Attainable Goals

Since achievement increases self-efficacy and failure erodes it, set goals that are challenging enough to be meaningful and achievable enough to avoid likely failure. For instance, your goal shouldn’t be to go to a party where everyone will be binge drinking and do your best. In that scenario, you would be putting yourself in a high-risk situation that dramatically increases your chance of relapse. Instead, set a goal to go to regular support meetings, or to share your recovery story. Then, use achievements to your advantage when you face a new challenge. Remind yourself that you’re capable of success.

Surround Yourself with Dedicated Peers

Peer groups allow you to absorb a little vicarious self-efficacy. In classrooms, group learning and projects show students that they are capable of success based on the success of their friends. In recovery, support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous are helpful in relapse prevention for a similar reason. Inspiration and accountability can improve your ideas about your own ability. Plus, encouragement from mentors and peers can expose you to verbal persuasion as well.

Make Your Own Choices

In the addiction recovery field, it’s well-known that no one-size-fits-all addiction treatment works for everyone. People have different needs, and they respond to different methods. A treatment program should be tailored to your history, needs, and preferences. Being involved in your treatment planning can make you more invested and interested in putting in the effort to see it through.

Are You Seeking Help?

As you or your loved ones are dealing with addiction, remember that there’s no need to struggle alone. Call 855-781-9939 or contact us online and get connected with the addiction specialists at Arete Recovery. Our caring and educated team members will help navigate you to the proper care you need. Don’t delay; call now.