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Drug and Alcohol Abuse Progression Curve or “Jellinek Curve”

It is theorized that the primary problem in addiction isn’t so much a drug or alcohol problem as it is one of the impaired coping mechanisms. If you were to read the basic text of Alcoholics Anonymous you would find nowhere in the book that you have a drinking problem but rather a “thinking problem.” The drug addiction or the alcohol abuse is just a solution. As an alcoholic or addict uses substances to cope with uncomfortable life situations, their ability to deal with these same situations sober becomes less and less. Over time, this failure to deal with life manifests itself in the form of many classic symptoms that can change over time making a voluntary commitment to an addiction treatment center less likely over time. Perhaps the best model of these changes is what is sometimes referred to as a “Jellinek Curve” or progression curve of addiction.

Demonstrated below is a standard progression curve which can be applied to both alcohol and drugs. Understand, however, that progression rates and how long it takes to reach the bottom of the curve, do sometimes vary depending on the substances used, the frequency, and the amount. Also, note that most people will hit a majority of these markers; however, not everybody will show signs of each symptom. In looking at this curve it is very common that when a drug addict or alcoholic passes the point of “loss of ordinary willpower” they most always need a long-term inpatient treatment center to change. By the time a family or a person seeking an addiction treatment center is reading this they are most likely past that point.

Jellinek Curve

You can also download this file as a PDF.


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