Everyone experiences addiction differently but there are 4 main stages the majority of addictions progress through. Addictions like prescription drug addiction do emerge differently though.

This page will cover the 4 stages of recreational drug and alcohol use and how it can progress into an addiction.


Stage 1

The first stage of addiction formation is Experimentation.

No one sets out to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. It will usually begin as an experiment with friends. Possibly due to peer pressure, particularly with younger generations.

Although teens are the most likely to succumb to peer pressure, adults aren’t immune. Especially if they have unmanaged anxiety disorders.

It is considered experimental or recreational at this stage. So you may try a substance more than once but you do not partake often.


Stage 2

The second stage of addiction formation is Regular use and abuse.

This is the stage when addiction slowly creeps into your life more and more. It has stopped being an infrequent experiment and is now part of your lifestyle.

It can be hard to distinguish if you have transitioned from stage 1 to 2. A simple way of self-assessing is if you now consider experiences and activities without your chosen substance to be boring. Where you would have happily done them sober beforehand.

At this stage, you may also start using your chosen substance to alleviate negative emotions. Although you are finding that you are having more negative emotions because of the drug or alcohol.

Your friends and family may also be becoming aware a habit is forming.


Stage 3

The third stage of addiction is Dependency and tolerance.

Your usage has increased in frequency and amount taken each time. This is the stage that physical and psychological reliance begins to develop.

Physically your brain will stop releasing certain chemicals so for you to feel ‘normal’ you must consume your chosen substance. This will have a knock-on effect on your psychological health as you may now find certain situations you used to be able to handle sober, unmanageable.

As this dependency continues you will need more and more of your chosen substance to experience the ‘high’ you had in the experimental stage. This is your tolerance developing.

At this phase, you may also notice that you are beginning to choose your addiction over family, friends and work or education obligations.


Stage 4

This is the final stage of addiction.

At this point, your dependency and tolerance have developed to such as point it is now considered a full-blown addiction.

You have accepted that you have a dependency on your chosen substance and you are completely comfortable with it. Self-reflection is minimal and your main focus is how you are going to procure your next ‘fix’.

You may have a desire to reduce or quit but without medical professionals and a variety of treatment services you are unable to leave your addiction behind.


When Should I Get Help?

If you are struggling at any stage with a substance use disorder you should obtain help. You do not have to be a ‘rock bottom’ to access addiction health care. If you feel overwhelmed by your chosen substance and you want to quit, then you should get the help to do so.


Contact us today no matter which stage of addiction you are at.