The 5 Stages of Addiction

November 30, 2022

The 5 Stages of Addiction


As defined by The National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a “chronic relapsing brain disease.” Each of the 5 stages of addiction- first use, continued use, tolerance, dependence and addiction have addictive tendencies. Understanding each stage is critical in diagnosing which stage someone is in so that they can get the necessary attention that they need to recover. It is important to note that addictive tendencies alter someone’s brain chemistry- that is why addiction is difficult to recover from- it is much more complex than just kicking an old habit.


Stage 1: First Use

The first use of a substance can be the catalyst to addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the majority of people with an addiction tried their drug of choice before the age of 18 and had a substance use disorder by 20. Whether or not the first use leads to addictive behavior is highly dependent on individual circumstances. Just because someone has tried a substance, it doesn’t mean that they will develop an addiction.


Stage 2: Continued Use

As someone continues to experiment with the substance, it becomes normalized and transforms from periodic to continued or regular use. At this stage in the 5 stages of addiction, social users might begin to take their drug or substance alone. Although the user is not addicted yet, they are likely to develop a mental reliance on the chosen drug or substance at this stage.


Stage 3: Tolerance

When an individual has been abusing a substance over a long period of time, the continued use can alter their brain chemistry which can result in tolerance. Developing tolerance can be very dangerous. Due to the substance no longer giving the same effects that it once did, the individual might increase the dosage or frequency of use to try to chase the original dopamine rush.


Stage 4: Dependence

Stage 4 can be seen as the turning point in the 5 stages of addiction. The user is no longer using the drug or substance of choice recreationally or medically, but instead, the user is becoming reliant on it. The user’s dependence can be physical, psychological or both.


The user will recognize a physical dependence if they abruptly stop using the substance of choice and their body reacts negatively- entering a state of withdrawal. People usually develop psychological dependence through the use of prescription medication. In both cases of physical and psychological dependence, the user takes the substance because they believe that they cannot function normally without it.


Stage 5: Addiction

The 5 stages of addiction lead to a substance abuse disorder- or addiction. At this stage, the user feels as though they cannot continue daily life without consuming this substance. This feeling will take over the user’s brain and control their lives and their choices. An individual risk of addiction can be reliant on their personality and even their genes. If you have ever heard someone turn down a substance because “addiction runs in their family” they aren’t exaggerating. The National Institute on Drug Abuse discovered that half of a person’s risk of becoming addicted to nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs depends on his or her genetic makeup.


Get Help at The Turning Point Recovery Network:

Understanding the 5 stages of addiction is vital to a positive recovery experience. At Turning Point Recovery Network, we emphasize a 12-step program of recovery, a balanced lifestyle, and accountability. This framework provides the optimal opportunity for our residents to begin a new life of fulfillment and purpose. To ensure a positive recovery journey, we offer upscale sober living homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Sober living homes greatly improve the chances of remaining abstinent following inpatient treatment. Living in a safe and structured environment nurtures and prepares the individual for re-entry into the real world.


Please contact for more information.

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