An Overview of The Stages of Addiction

An Overview of The Stages of Addiction

The downward spiral of substance abuse can differ from person to person, and there are no concrete rules about how a pattern of addictive behaviour occurs. But, while some substances are more addictive than others, dependency can develop over time and there is often a pattern present. The five stages of addiction are a general guideline for how even casual use can become a behaviour that may not be easily controlled. Understanding how this spiral looks can be an effective way to gauge whether you or a loved one should reach out for help.

The following is a quick overview of the stages of addiction:


Experimental use is the first stage of addiction. At this stage, most do not consider themselves addicted, as they have made an active decision to try the substance. This type of use is often the result of experimentation, or a could be a medication that was prescribed by a physician.

Recreational or social use

During this stage, an individual uses the substance in certain settings such as socially, and is often still able to control their use. Although the substance has become somewhat incorporated into their lives, they are often still “functioning”.

Situational or Circumstantial use

Here the substance may start to act as a crutch, and is often used for a particular purpose. Examples may include use to escape from personal problems, use of a substance to get through a challenging situation, or even as a type of self-medication in response to mental health difficulties such as anxiety and depression.

Intensive use

Intensive use is characterised by high doses of the substance and often includes binging. Usually, by now the person has built up a tolerance, and they are consuming larger amounts than before in order to achieve the desired effect. The degree of tolerance will vary among each person and often depends on the type of substance they are using.

Compulsive use or Addiction

This is where drug use is out of control and the individual continues to seek and use drugs or alcohol despite harmful consequences. This phase is often accompanied by cycles of use and withdrawal, and the user may even go back and forth between recovery and relapse.

Whatever phase one finds themself in, it’s never too late to begin the path to sobriety. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, Recovery852 is able to advise a way forward. Don’t wait. Get help now.

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