Everyone has a different experience both in the development of addiction and in the road to recovery. Although there may be similarities between some stories, every person has a unique background that affects their journey. While there are individual factors that contribute to every person’s experience, many will journey down similar paths.

Stages of Addiction Development

Addiction, in most cases, does not develop overnight. For most people, addiction is the product of a pattern of behaviors that lead to dependency. While it may seem like addiction occurs rapidly and without warning, many people will shift through numerous phases before it becomes a compulsive, unwavering behavior. In general, the development of addiction follows a path similar to the one detailed below:


A lot of addiction starts with curiosity, peer pressure, or a desire to try something new. In many cases, the first time a person uses a substance is not because they are looking to develop a new habit. They may think they will try it a couple of times, but it is not something they plan to do long-term.

Experimenting with drugs is not always about recreational use. Sometimes people are looking for ways to self-medicate. Using drugs or alcohol and finding it relieves symptoms you are trying to address can be incredibly risky and increase the likelihood of addiction developing.

The experimentation phase is often a voluntary phase. A person’s use is dictated by their choices, not by urges or cravings. A person can stop using drugs or alcohol at any time and may not use again for days, weeks, or months at a time.

Regular Drug Use

Over time, experimentation with substances can lead to regular use. Once substances become a routine part of someone’s life, dependency is beginning to develop. While you may not have developed an addiction yet, regular use can put you at risk for building tolerances that increase the likelihood of addiction.

Regular drug use is the fine line between initial use and addiction. While frequency of use has increased, a person has not developed an addiction they cannot control. Generally, a person is able to control their behaviors around substance use still and they do not experience major negative repercussions that can be attributed to that use.


As a person uses substances more frequently, the body begins to rely on them to feel “normal”. The body may not be able to regulate itself normally causing a person to feel as though they need substances to even get through the day. During this stage, a person’s body is also finding it needs larger doses in order to achieve the same effects. Tolerances begin to build rendering regular drug use ineffective.

Once dependency has developed, professional help is usually required. The body’s basic functions require drugs or alcohol to perform. Failure to use them can result in withdrawal symptoms and other negative side effects. It begins to negatively impact relationships, work, school, and other responsibilities in life. Many notice their lives are beginning to deteriorate and feel as though they are losing control.

Stages of Addiction Treatment

Overcoming an addiction is rarely a short-term process. For many, it requires multiple phases of treatment and long-term care in order to reduce the risk of relapse. Much like the development of addiction itself, treatment for it is a highly unique process that evolves over time. As a person’s needs change in recovery, treatment must shift in order to keep the person engaged. While this journey is highly individualized, there are some general phases of treatment that a person most go through.


The first thing a person must do when entering treatment is go through a detox phase. Detox is critical because it allows the mind and body to begin the healing process. Free from the effects of mind and mood-altering substances, a person can move forward with a clear mind in recovery.

Depending on the severity of a person’s addiction, a medical detox may be required to ensure their safety. With round-the-clock care, withdrawal symptoms can be monitored and the person is made to feel as comfortable as possible through this stage. It provides them with a safe place to begin the recovery process and begin implementing changes to support sobriety moving forward.

Therapy and Treatment

After detox is complete, a person transitions into a treatment program. Depending on individual needs, there are numerous treatment programs available. This can last several weeks to well over a year. Through this process, a person learns more about addiction, its impact on their life, and how to cope without the assistance of drugs or alcohol. Some of the different levels of care available include:

Depending on how long someone has been sober for, their current living situation, and a variety of clinical factors will dictate what level of treatment is recommended. It is best to research and find out what your options are. Learn more about how to find the right rehab.

Therapy and treatment focus on what a client’s strengths and weaknesses are in order to help prepare them for life after treatment. Exploring difficult topics, assessing past behaviors, and learning how to cope in the future can reduce the risk of relapse and improve outcomes in treatment. A person’s medical history and past experiences may also require them to undergo other forms of treatment to strengthen the recovery process and treat co-occurring disorders.


Addiction treatment does not end once a program is completed. Sobriety requires life-long care to prevent relapse in the future. There are a number of aftercare services a person can use to keep them connected to the sober community.

Aftercare services tend to be less rigorous and allow the person to have more freedom. They can serve as a place to continue therapy while learning how to live with more independence. In this environment, a person is able to take lessons learned in these sessions and immediately apply them to their lives. It is an effective way to help a person keep their sobriety at the forefront of their mind.

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.


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