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  • Writer's pictureChris Thompson

What are the Levels of Addiction?



Addiction doesn’t happen overnight. Like anything else, it’s a process. It progresses through distinct levels from the initial use to a verified substance use disorder.


Understanding how addiction progresses can help you understand why it is so difficult to quit using. Let’s take a look at the different levels of addiction and what happens in each.


Initial Use


This is the level at which the user first tries the substance. There are many reasons why someone might try a substance, and not everyone who tries it will become addicted.


People try substances sometimes because of peer pressure, other times because of curiosity, and still other times because they are suffering from a mental condition like depression.


The Experimentation Level


For those who try a substance and find it pleasing, they often begin experimenting with how it impacts their life in different contexts. Some might use it to feel more comfortable in social settings, while others might use it to feel more relaxed after a long day.


At this point, there are often very few cravings for the substance, and the user is still able to control when they use. The user can still quit if they choose to do so.


Regular Use Level


This is the level at which the use goes from periodic to regular. That might not mean every single day, but there is some kind of pattern for the use of the substance.


This is the point at which the use can become problematic. The individual is not addicted at this point, but there are some negative consequences, such as a hangover, for example.


At this point, it’s still possible for the individual to quit without outside help, but there is some mental reliance on the substance.


Risky Use Level


At this point, the individual is using the substance despite significant negative impacts. They may, for example, lose their job or get a DUI, but they keep using.


This is the level at which friends and family members are most likely to notice changes in behavior. They may notice mood swings, a loss of interest in hobbies, neglect of responsibilities, and a change in the user’s peer group.


Dependence Level


This is the point at which the individual is not just using the substance recreationally or for medical purposes; rather, they are reliant on using this substance. Physically, their body has become used to the substance, and they can tolerate more of it.


Mentally, they are reliant on the substance to function in various contexts. They may also be using it as a coping mechanism. Their use may still be a conscious choice, but it would be extremely difficult for them to quit using without outside help.


Addiction Level


Although the words addiction and dependence are often used interchangeably, the difference is that with an addiction, the decision to use is no longer a conscious choice. The individual feels they can no longer do without their substance of choice.


The addict’s behavior shifts substantially and may include things like lying and stealing, even from family and friends. At this level, the overwhelming majority of addicts need outside help to quit.


Sober Sidekick Can Help!


If you’re ready to enter the final level of addiction – treatment and recovery – then Sober Sidekick can help. Addiction recovery is all about connections to a peer community of people who understand how you feel and will never judge you.


With the Sober Sidekick app, you get a peer community of over 150,000 recovering addicts you can access 24/7. You can also join a virtual AA meeting day or night, and you can connect with a professional when you need that extra help. Together, we can get and stay sober!


Image: Freepik


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