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Stages of Addiction

Nobody just wakes up one morning as an addict. There are stages that they have gone through even though they didn’t realize it at the time. The stages of addiction start with that first episode of taking a drug or drinking a glass of alcohol. There are then three more stages you go through before you reach that final fifth stage of a substance use disorder. Let’s take a look at the five stages of addiction.

First Use

From the time you take that first drink or pop that prescription medication, the course of events is set in motion. It isn’t clear why some people don’t become addicted easily, but it clear that many have a genetic makeup that makes it more likely. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way to tell for sure who will or won’t get addicted. Once you indulge in something, that predisposition is triggered. The only way you can be totally sure you won’t become addicted is to avoid that first step. This may be difficult for those who enter the path to addiction because they are prescribed an opiate pain reliever after an accident or some other medical issue.

Regular Use

In this stage, you begin to show a pattern of use. This doesn’t mean you are drinking every night or taking a drug daily. Maybe you only do so on weekends. What is apparent is that the substance is becoming more important to you. You start avoiding situations where you won’t be able to use and you start spending more time talking about or thinking about the next time you will use. The substance becomes a regular part of your life.

Risky Use

For many, this becomes one of the most telling stages of addiction. During this stage, you start to do things that put yourself or others at risk. This can be physically or socially. You may start to drive while you have been drinking. You start missing work here and there or stop going to family functions in order to use the substance. It is during this stage that friends or family may confront you and express their concerns about your drinking or drugs.


Dependence is the fourth of the stages of addiction. During this stage, you start to feel physical and emotional symptoms when you don’t have the alcohol or drug. By this point, it is taking a great deal more of the substance in order to experience the same effects as before. Your body has become convinced that it needs the substance in order for you to feel even close to “normal”. Your cravings become strong and you actively seek out the substance rather than simply looking forward. At this point, you are using the substance daily.

Substance Use Disorder

This is the final and most destructive of the stages of addiction. At this point, you may have already lost your job, family, and home. If not, it is pretty close to happening. You can’t make it through the day without abusing your substance of choice. You start in the morning and don’t stop until you sleep. It is often at this point where many people have entered a love/hate relationship with the drug or alcohol. Many want to quit but don’t know how, or even if it is possible.

Find Your Path to Recovery

The Ranch PA helps you find your way back to sobriety regardless of which of the stages of addiction you are in. If you are ready to take that first step toward recovery, contact at The Ranch PA717.969.9126 and let us help you through this. You don’t have to navigate the healing journey on your own. You need only take that first step and we’ll help with the rest.

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