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Disease Progression

How do you know where your loved one is in the progression of addiction disease? Click here to read and print the Jellinek Chart.

Below is an overview.


Occasional substance use is not uncommon, especially with alcohol. In fact, most Americans are characterized as social drinkers. Alcohol addiction statistics indicate, however, that one out of every 16 drinkers will become addicted to alcohol. Those same odds apply to other addictive substances.


Think of this as the “warning signs of addiction” stage. The individual begins to use drugs or alcohol more frequently and, at intermittent times, his or her substance use gets out of control. When the alcohol or drug use gets out of control, often something “bad” happens, such as someone gets kicked out of the house, gets in a fight or has a wreck. Once alcohol or drug use has caused one bad thing to happen, that user has entered the Substance Abuse stage. Fortunately, this does not mean that the person is addicted; it means that if they choose to stop their use now, they can be successful in doing so on their own.


With increasing frequency, the individual uses the substance too much. Blackouts or temporary amnesia occur. He or she uses more rapidly than their peers, and sneaks or conceals the quantity used. He or she resents any reference to their addiction habits.


The individual begins to lose control as to the time, place and amount used. He or she overindulges unintentionally, uses to overcome the hangover from prior episodes and tries new patterns of use in an effort to maintain some sense of control. He or she attempts cures by moving to new locations or by changing companions.


The individual becomes a loner and develops alibis, excuses and rationalizations to cover up or explain the substance abuse. Personality and behavior changes occur that affect all relationships – family, employment and community. Extended binges, physical tremors, hallucinations and delirium, complete rejection of social reality, malnutrition with accompanying illness and disease, and early death all occur as the chronic addiction progresses.