How Addiction Overtakes Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs

Addiction is a tough thing to face, and it’s a tough thing for those around the addicted person to face. As time goes on, the drugs or substances that one is addicted to will systematically start to destroy the body. This includes basic functional abilities without the assistance of the substance, and there are even cases where the substance is no longer enough. 

However, it is also true to say that though this is the case, these impacts can start to be reversed when an addict fights to achieve sobriety. The longer they stay sober, the more ‘normal’ their body and their abilities will become again. 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is one model which psychologists and therapists use to help those with substance abuse problems. In this article, we are going to be taking a look at this model of thinking, and looking at how this can be helpful to those who are experiencing an issue with substance abuse. Keep reading down below if you would like to find out more.

What Is Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a psychological theory that was first published in 1943 by Abraham Maslow. This theory proposes a classification system, looking at the needs of society. The hierarchy determines that basic, universal human needs are at the base of the hierarchy, with varying emotions towards the top. 

Essentially, the theory that was presented illustrated the need for the most basic needs to be met, before someone could move up toward other human needs that we have. Once you have followed the basic needs, you can then follow on to the next step, and once you have achieved what is at the next level, move to the next, and so on. The important part to understand is that a person cannot move to the next tier until they have successfully navigated the tier in which they are on.

The Hierarchy

The most basic human needs are at the bottom of this hierarchy. These basic human needs include air, food, water, clothing, shelter, sleep, and reproduction. The next tier involves the need for safety. This includes things such as resources, health, employment, personal security, and property. After safety, needs, love, and belonging are the next tiers on the pyramid. These tiers look at things such as family, intimacy, and friendship. The next tier is esteem which focuses on ideas such as strength, self-respect, and freedom.

The very top of the hierarchy is self-actualization. This is where you become the most that you can be by living to your absolute fullest potential.

An important note here is that there are two different types of needs in this hierarchy. The first of which are deficiency needs, and the other are growth needs. These are two distinct categories that we are going to look at in a little more detail.

Deficiency Needs VS Growth Needs

The first four tiers of Maslow’s Hierarchy all contain needs that can be put into the deficiency needs category. These are the needs that arise due to any kind of deprivation, and they work as fantastic motivators to get people to do things when these needs go unmet. For example, if you lack food, you will start looking for it. Generally, the more that these needs are denied, the stronger the urge becomes to meet them, so the longer you go without food, the hungrier you are going to get, and the more motivated you are to then do something about this.

The next tier of self-actualization is what is known as a growth need. What this means is that it is the desire to develop and mature as an individual, not because you are lacking something, but simply because you want to be better.

Now that we have a better understanding of how the hierarchy works and the different types of needs, it becomes easier to understand how drug addiction disrupts the entire system. These systems help us to maneuver through life, allowing us to evolve as humans and become the best that we can be. However, drug and substance addiction interrupt this entire process and that is why recovery is so difficult for people at the beginning and all the way through.

The Stages Of The Hierarchy And How Addiction Overtakes  

When someone is addicted to a substance, their basic desires for food, water, connection, and self-actualization at the top of the list essentially go out of the window the more time that passes. In the beginning stages, the desire for self-actualization will go first, followed by basic needs such as food. The only focus of the addicted person is their drug of choice and whatever they have got to do to get it. The longer the addiction goes on, the more needs it will take over, until the only thing they care about in any capacity is their substance. Let’s work our way through the pyramid and take a look at how addiction corrupts it.

Basic Physiological Desires

First, as we mentioned above, drugs and alcohol will overtake the basic physiological desires of a human. Things like hygiene are no longer going to be of concern, and the idea of eating properly isn’t even going to register, with some only eating once every couple of days. The need to get high overrides all of these basic needs, and replaces them with only one thought: where’s the next hit?


The next need is safety. The need to feel safe might still be a priority for some people, but this is more common in early addiction than in advanced addiction. However, the addict wants to be safe so that they can continue to use in a safe environment. But, the longer the addiction goes on, and the worse it gets, many addicts are content to live in dirty homes with other addicts, or even on the streets if it means that they can continue getting high.

Money And Resources

The addicted person will often find a relationship with someone who can provide them with their drug of choice, as well as income to provide for their habit. You will often find addicts do not care what this relationship is like, whether it is abusive or if their partner is a criminal, as long as they are able to get their next hit when they want it. If an addict cannot find a partner, they often turn to stealing or pawning their items in order to get their next hit.

Love And Belonging

Addicts often avoid their loved ones. This is more common if they think that their family or loved ones are going to try to interfere and become a threat to them getting high. For example, if an addict knows their family wants them to get help, they may avoid them entirely so this is not possible.

The Need For More And Lack Of Self Actualization

There is no self-actualization for an addict. They do not want to become better or develop skills to become a better person. All they want is to continue with their drug use without the involvement of anyone trying to get in the way. They no longer care about who they hurt or the consequences of what they are doing, they only care about getting their next hit. The only way to break this cycle is for a drastic event to take place, and even then, it’s not enough for some people to stop.

How To Overcome Addiction

It has got to be your choice to overcome your addiction or it is never going to work. We know that it is tough, but it is not possible. If you or your loved one carries on the way that they are going they only have two options: jail or death. However, there is a third option and that is getting help. These are the only three options for someone with an addiction, and we hope that you choose the help that we can offer you here at Louisville Outpatient Rehab, or somewhere else.

Our Services

Intensive Outpatient 

Our intensive outpatient is focused on those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol and need help getting back on the right path. This is a long-term solution that combines both individual and group therapy sessions on a regular basis.


This is a step down from the intensive outpatient program. The outpatient program is geared towards those who still need help but on a less intense basis. 


We also offer virtual and telemedicine sessions to all of our patients, ensuring that you don’t have to miss a session due to other commitments for example. Fit this easily into your day!

Multiple Pathways

We use a range of different methods that are evidence-based and traditional to help all of our patients. This includes things like sober living, family therapy, dual diagnosis and so much more.

If you, or someone you know, are struggling with addiction, get in touch with us here at Louisville Outpatient Rehab to discuss the options available. We are here to help those who want to recover in any way that we can.

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