New Study: There May Be Three Phases of Addiction

Published On: January 29, 2016|Categories: Addiction|

According to Live Science, the New England Journal of Medicine has released a study by Dr. Nora Volkow (lead author) detailing the way addiction can affect human neurobiology, further indicating that addiction may be a disease of the brain.

The study breaks addiction down into three phases and examines how each phase can impact the brain, providing valuable insights into the behaviors and thought processes of addicted individuals.

The Three Phases of Addiction

According to the study, addiction’s three phases are:

  • Binge and Intoxication – People begin to use a drug and experience a euphoric high as a result.
  • Withdrawal and Negative Effects– Intoxication caused by use of a drug can lead to physical discomfort, anxiety, or distress when that drug is no longer present in a person’s body. To alleviate this feeling, the individual will return to the binge and intoxication phase. This cycle increases an individual’s tolerance, requiring them to take more and more of the drug to feel the same euphoric high.
  • Preoccupation and Anticipation – In addition to the feelings of discomfort or stress associated with withdrawal, individuals who are becoming addicted may experience a change in their prefrontal cortex that minimizes their ability to resist a strong urge to use their drug of choice. This explains why many people who genuinely want to become sober may break commitments not to use or constantly return to a drug.

Targeting the Three Phases of Addiction for Treatment

Although three separate phases of addiction have been identified, the phases are not necessarily distinct, and often overlap. Effective addiction treatment includes consideration of how to best target each of the three phases, and some popular treatments and medications already reflect this line of thinking. For example, Narcan, which reverses the effect of opioids on the brain, targets the binge and intoxication phase; methadone and suboxone, which decrease the symptoms of opiate withdrawal, target the withdrawal and negative affect phase.

If you believe that you or anyone you know may be suffering from addiction, contact Pyramid Healthcare by calling (888) 694-9996.


“Addiction Changes Brain Biology in 3 Stages, Experts Say” – Sara G. Miller, Live Science

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