Adolescent Stages of Addiction

Addiction has powerfully negative effects on adolescents, their families and the realization of their hopes and dreams. The sad fact is that that every addict started life as a human being with great potential. The addiction, like an overwhelming cancer can consume these hopes and dreams. There are different stages of addiction. Each stage would require a different type of treatment modality. They are the early stage, the middle stage and the late or advanced stage of addiction. In adolescents, the stages of addiction can progress more quickly than as an adult, although this is not always true. It can take a few months or a few years to reach the later stages of addiction.


Begins smoking cigarettes

Experimentation with drugs

Begins smoking pot and drinking

Hangs out with the drugging and drinking crowd

May steal medications from parents

Urgent requests for money, cons and manipulates to get requests met

Preoccupation with finding drugs and orients activities around them

School problems begin, maybe truancies or begging parents to make excuses for them

May not come home when requested, staying out all night

Few consequences from their use

Ability to control use

Tolerance to using

Substance use becomes a way of communicating to others

Attention span decreases

Lower tolerance to frustration


Beginning to try and limit their us

Blaming others for thing that are going wrong

Using different types of drugs to gain control over use

Withdrawing from family and friends


Academic decline and truancy

Mood swings


Increase in time spent in using substances

Changes in personal appearance

Arguments within the family

Legal difficulties

Loss of control


Suspension or being expelled from school

Increase in anxiety

Lowered self esteem

Increase in legal issues


Passing out

Signs of withdrawal symptoms

Unable to control substance use


Anger outbursts

Denial of using

Weekend binges or daily use


Begins to steal, deal or prostitute to support their habit

Weight gain or weight loss

Stops trying to hide their use

Addiction is chronic, progressive and sometimes fatal. There are many forms of treatment for adolescent addiction. No one single treatment is effective for all individuals. Treatment must touch on all facets of the adolescent’s life. Social, family, school, legal and medical are just some areas that need to be a focus on, in treatment. If the adolescent is using heroin, medication management may be successful, such as buprenorphine or methadone.

If an adolescent is using drugs, the best form of treatment always includes the family. Family participation and counseling is vital in providing proper treatment to the adolescent. Without family participation, the chances of the adolescent getting into recovery are low.

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