The Five Stages of Addiction

The Downward Spiral of Addiction

Addiction is a disease that does not simply happen overnight, rather, is a progressive disease that occurs over the course of time. Before addiction becomes dependence and this is the stage of substance abuse that you build up a tolerance to the substance in which you are abusing. This means that you require an increasing amount of the substance in order to feel its effects. As your tolerance goes up, your dependence increased and you are putting yourself at an increased risk of addiction.

  • #1. A Noticeable Pattern

The first stage of the downward spiral of addiction is a pattern of using. When it comes to illicit drugs, individuals may crave and look forward to the next time that they can use, counting down the minute until they can feel the effects of the substance once again. As it relates to prescription drugs, individuals may require a stronger dose of the drug in order to feel anything. When there is a pattern developed, the individual is already on the slippery slope to addiction.

  • #2. Risky Behavior and Carlessness

The second phase of addiciton is putting one’s self in harm’s way as a result of their drug or alcohol abuse. They may be aware of the repercussions but have developed a dependency on the substance and therefore continue to use. During this stage, individuals may mix drugs together, creating a very potent and dangerous situation. This also increases the risk of overdose. In the case of alcohol use disorder (AUD), individuals may drive while under the influence of alcohol, putting their own lives at risk as well as the lives of others at risk.

  • #3. Building up a Tolerance

When individuals frequently use substances of abuse, whether it is drugs or alcohol, they begin to build up a tolerance. They may no longer feel the effects of the substance with the amount they first began using with so they begin to up their dosage in order to feel the effects. Increasing doses of dangerous substances can put yourself in a life-threatening situation.

  • #4. Dependency

With tolerance comes dependency and this is the stage where the mind and body are officially dependent on the substance of abuse. The individual may experience withdrawal symptoms if they do not take the drug so they continue to use and remain under the influence of drugs or alcohol in order to mitigate withdrawal symptoms. During this stage, individuals may experience insomnia, stress, and anxiety due to their substance abuse.

  • #5. Addiction

The final stage is full-on addiction. This is where the individual is addicted to the substance of abuse on either a mental or physical basis or both. When an individual has reached the stage of addiction, they require addiction treatment in order to recover from this ‘disease’. Depending on the severity of the addiction, as well as what type of drug the individual is addicted to, inpatient or outpatient treatment may be required.

Getting Help

It’s important whether you are in the early stages of addiction or struggle with full-on addiction that you seek the care and support in order to obtain sobriety. Addiction is not a disease that goes away on its own, rather, it requires an intense treatment process in order to overcome.


If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.