The Six Stages of Change

In the late 1980s, University of Rhode Island professors James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente were studying ex-smokers when they came up with a theory called “the six stages of change.” This idea was based upon observations that all substance abusers pass through predictable phases as they break their habits. This theory can be applied to smoking, overeating, substance abuse, gambling, and other compulsive behaviors.

By educating yourself about the six stages of change, you can learn where you are right now. You can also determine if you are ready to call 1-877-762-3768 to seek treatment for your heroin problem.


  • Some therapists call this stage “Denial.”
  • During this stage, users do not realize they have a problem with heroin. They will say things like, “I can quit anytime.” or “My biggest problem is that you keep nagging me about it.” They place all blame outside themselves. Everyone else is a “bad guy,” including the boss, the spouse, and the police officer who gives him a ticket for driving under the influence.
  • Individuals who are in this stage reject any suggestion that they enter treatment for heroin, because they believe they do not need help.
  • You are beyond the Pre-Contemplation stage because you are reading this website. That means you know that you have a problem.


  • If you are in this stage, you are thinking about quitting heroin, but you’re still on the fence. To you, quitting is a thing that will happen “someday.” You are not ready to make the change, or do not know how. Usually, you will not be ready to do the work of change for at least a month or so.
  • During the Contemplation stage, people think about the bad effect heroin is having on their lives and the lives of their loved ones, but they are unsure whether they can give it up. They read websites like this one and seek more information.
  • The stages of Pre-Contemplation and Contemplation can last a lifetime. However, some people make up their minds quickly – within an hour in some cases – and move out of Contemplation and into Stage Three.
  • If you are in Stages One or Two, you can call for more information about heroin treatment. Perhaps this can help you progress to Stage Three.


  • During Stage Three, people prepare to quit heroin. They may even set an exact date to quit, and make plans how to do it.
  • Stage Three is a great time to call . Our counselors can help you plan your treatment and find a program that fits your needs.


  • This is the period when you are actively quitting heroin.
  • If you are trying to do this alone, call – you will have a much better chance of successfully quitting heroin if you have professional help that is available in our treatment centers. Counselors and others in your program will provide support for your efforts, and you will be able to get the necessary prescriptions, such as antidepressants, that you may need.
  • Stage Four can last a few weeks or several months, depending on the nature and severity of your involvement with heroin.
  • Because tour family members will have to change along with you, and will have to learn how to allow you to change, your treatment center will also provide professional counseling opportunities for them.


  • Congratulations! If you are in Stage Five, you are no longer using heroin. Like most people, though, you still need professional support.
  • Ex-heroin users often experience depression and extreme cravings for their drug for a long time after they quit. They need to learn how to avoid going back to heroin, and how to deal with situations and people that “trigger” a relapse into drugs. They need to use new ways of dealing with stress and anger that do not involve heroin.
  • The Maintenance Phase can last for many years, and some people will always remain in this stage. If you have quit heroin on your own but are struggling with maintaining your achievement, call 1-877-762-3768 for guidance.


  • Stage Six is the “promised land.” You no longer use or even think about heroin. You do not need to use special techniques to avoid relapses.
  • Heroin is no longer on your mind or in your life.