What Are the 5 Stages of Addiction?

Addiction doesn’t happen overnight. It is a progressive disease and it occurs in stages, each building up to the next, more severe one. It’s crucial to know and identify these stages to know when to step in.

Stages of Addiction

Initiation or First Use

This is when an individual tries the substance for the first time either out of experimentation or because they are under medication e.g. to deal with pain. The most common drive here is to give the substance a try and to get to know how it makes them feel. The intention is to try it and see what happens. Many people go through this stage without ending up addicted while others progress to the next stage.

Regular Use

As the individual keeps taking the substance, they gradually incorporate it into their daily lives. They go from experimentation to regular use while still functioning well. Taking the drug or drinking alcohol becomes a habit and they form a pattern e.g. drinking in the evenings or on weekends. If you pay attention, you can start to notice signs of problematic behavior at this stage as the substance becomes more important in the individual’s life.

Risky Use

At this stage, the individual starts showing alarming changes in behavior thanks to using the substance. For instance, they may start driving while drunk or high or they may be in the early stages of financial or relationship problems. At the same time, they start to slowly develop tolerance to the substance. This is the best time to alert them about their behavior and to recommend alcohol or drug rehab before things deteriorate further.


Continued substance use eventually leads to tolerance then dependence. The brain and body become adjusted to the substance and the individual needs increasingly higher amounts to achieve the same high as before. The next phase is dependence on the substance to function. At this point, they experience intense withdrawal symptoms if they don’t take the substance and feel they need it to live and function.


The final stage is addiction where the individual can’t stop using the substance even though they may experience negative consequences as a result. By this time, the addiction may be obvious to those around them as they can see the problems stemming from the individual’s behavior e.g. problems at work or school or with their close relationships. 

The individual may be in denial about their addiction or they may bounce back and forth between recovery and relapse. The only way to break free of addiction is by seeking addiction treatment. At Findlay Recovery Center in Ohio, we offer both alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs. We aim to make rehab treatment affordable to reach as many people as we can. Contact us today to see how we can help you go from addiction to living a sober and productive life.

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