The Stages of Addiction
What was formerly simply labeled as “addiction” is now understood as a chronic and progressive disease of the brain with multiple stages that include tolerance, dependence and addiction.
Tolerance: The pleasurable effects of a substance typically decrease over time as the brain adjusts neurotransmitter levels, and increasing quantities are needed to achieve the same effects.
Dependence: When a dependence is established, physical or mental withdrawal symptoms will develop if substance use is abruptly stopped or decreased.1
Addiction: Addiction is the compulsive and continued use of a substance and an inability to stop, despite negative consequences such as absences from work or school, driving while impaired, legal problems and relationship difficulties with loved ones.2
The medical diagnosis for an addiction is “substance use disorder,” which is when substance use has started to cause constant life problems for the individual that are having progressively more impact.3 A substance use disorder is classified as mild, moderate or severe based on the results of an evaluation.
Mental Health Disorders
Another consideration for determining whether to pursue addiction treatment is if you’re experiencing any mental health conditions. It’s common for people who use or abuse drugs or alcohol to have a co-occurring mental illness. Some frequent combinations are alcohol use and depression and meth use and bipolar disorder. Alcohol and drug abuse can increase the severity of any underlying mental disorders.
Addiction is common in people with mental illness:4
- About 50 percent of people with serious mental illness are also suffering from a substance use disorder.
- 37 percent of those with an alcohol use disorder and 53 percent of those with a drug use disorder also have at least one serious mental illness.
- Approximately 29 percent of people who are diagnosed with a mental disorder abuse either alcohol or drugs.
When someone has a substance use disorder along with a mental health condition, it’s known clinically as a dual diagnosis. It’s often difficult for professionals to determine if the substance use triggered the mental illness or if the mental illness led the person to use substances in an attempt to alleviate unpleasant symptoms.
Regardless of which came first, effective addiction treatment will provide an opportunity to learn the skills to live a life of sobriety as well as treat any psychological disorders.
If you believe you have a possible substance use disorder, it’s best to talk to a professional. A professional addiction counselor can give you an assessment and discuss what treatment options might be beneficial for you.
If you decide to seek treatment, your assessment will help you choose a program that’s a good match for your needs. If you are diagnosed with a substance use disorder as well as a mental health issue, choose a rehab that has a dual diagnosis program to treat both disorders in context of each other. Treatment can successfully put you on the road to sobriety and a better, healthier life.
Addiction Treatment Can Transform Your Life–Beyond Ending Your Addiction
Learn more about addiction treatment and help yourself decide if it is time to seek treatment. Click on the image below to download our free eBook: 9 Ways Therapy Transforms Your Life (Beyond Ending Your Addiction).