5 Stages of Addiction: Stopping Addiction Before It’s Too Late

5 stages of addiction

The Five Stages of Addiction:

  1. Experimentation
  2. Regular Use
  3. Risky Use
  4. Dependence
  5. Addiction or Substance Use Disorder

Understanding the 5 stages of addiction is important for anyone that has a child that may be using drugs or alcohol. It is important to for youth drug prevention to know the warning signs of drug use in children and adolescents.

Stage 1 of Addiction: Experimentation

Stage 1 – Experimentation

Experimentation is the beginning of drug and alcohol use in adolescents and teens. The average age of first experimentation for boys is 11-12 and for girls is 13-14. This stage is when the drugs or alcohol are first making their effects on the lives of the user and they have not experienced the feelings they are feeling from them before this stage.

Stage 2 of Addiction: Regular Use

Stage 2 – Regular Use

Regular use is the second stage of addiction when the adolescent or person using the drugs or alcohol has begun seeking out the feeling they got from the experimentation. They already know the feeling they get from the drug they are using or alcohol they are drinking and are making a conscious choice to seek out that feeling by using or drinking more regularly in their lives.

Stage 3 of Addiction: Risky Use

Stage 3 – Risky Use

Risky use is the stage of drug use where the child or adolescent has begun having negative consequences from their drug or alcohol use but continue using anyway. These consequences can show up in the form of missing school and grades slipping, losing reputation or relationships with friends or family, or even legal trouble like minors in possession of alcohol or drugs. Risky use is likely the last stage of addiction when the person using still possibly has the ability to make the choice to stop using.

Stage 4 of Addiction: Dependence

Stage 4 – Dependence

Dependence is when the person using drugs or alcohol begins to feel effects of withdrawal symptoms when they are not using or drinking. This stage of addiction is a scary one for someone to find themselves in for the first time because they begin having physical symptoms of dependence when their drug of choice is not flowing through their body. Withdrawal symptoms can include flu like symptoms, watery eyes, feelings of coldness yet sweating, and others. Symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal vary depending on the substance and amount being used.

Stage 5 of Addiction: Substance Use Disorder

Stage 5 – Substance Use Disorder

Substance use disorder (or addiction) is classified as a chronic relapsing disorder when the sufferer continues to use drugs or alcohol no matter the consequences piling up in their lives. Full-blown addiction is a very difficult place to be when no matter how bad you want to quit using drugs, you still continue to use. This stage of addiction has driven many people into: loss of relationships, loss of jobs, homelessness, and even death for many as we see in the overdose rates in America.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, you are not alone, and Recovered On Purpose would love to help. Please take a look at our 50 State Medicaid Rehab Guide or Contact Us for help. Recovery Is Possible!

Conclusion of The 5 Stages of Addiction

Recovered On Purpose did a crowd poll in 2022 from over 100 respondents who were in addiction recovery. The poll asked followers to rate on a scale of importance, 1 being not important at all and 10 being extremely important, three projects they wanted to work on.

The first was: How important is it to you to write a book? Answers varied from 4-10.

The second was: How important is it to you to learn how to speak? Answers varied from 6-10.

The third was: How important is it to you to prevent drug use in children? Answers were all 10 or written in with numbers above 10.

Anyone who has suffered with this disease and gone through the stages of addiction to the last stage of full-blown substance use disorder want to help with preventing future generations from going all the way through these stages. Please take youth drug and alcohol use seriously; we are all sick of losing people.

As seen on

Relapse Prevention Worksheet