The Different Stages of Drug Addiction

There’s a common misconception surrounding individuals who are addicted to drugs because drug addiction is difficult to understand. Individuals who use drugs are viewed as weak or as having low morals. However, drug addiction is much more complicated than that. To begin to understand drug addiction and its complexities, we will go over the different stages of drug addiction.

Experimentation and Initial Use

Curiosity is a motivation for some individuals when it comes to drug use. They want to experiment to see how it feels. Drug addiction may also stem from prescription pain medication that is legitimately prescribed. However, the longer an individual uses pain medication, the more of it they will need to feel the same effects. Certain factors can increase a person’s chances of becoming addicted. These include:

  • Family history of addiction
  • Chaotic enviromental situation
  • Abuse and neglect
  • Peer pressure and being surrounded by family and friends with lax views on substance abuse
  • Depression or lonliness

These factors alone won’t determine if a person will fall into the vicious cycle of addiction. Other factors are often at play when a person becomes addicted.

Substance Abuse

The next stage of drug addiction is substance abuse. Once a person uses a substance on a recurring basis and in an improper way, they have reached the stage of substance abuse. The drug has become harmful. When illicit drugs are involved, drug abuse starts with the initial use. Abuse of other drugs, such as prescription medicines, tobacco or alcohol, may not be as easy to recognize. When an individual begins using such drugs on a daily basis and finds it difficult to function without them, then they have entered the stage of substance abuse.


When a person takes a drug, they build up a tolerance to that drug. This means they must use more and more of that drug to get the high they are seeking. The unfortunate fact about tolerance is that a person must continually increase the dose of the drug to get the same mental or physical effects they were once able to get from a smaller dose. This leads to heavy drug abuse.


Tolerance leads to dependence. With extended drug use, a person’s body will become dependent on that drug. Without the drug, a person will have difficulty functioning in daily life. In long-time drug users, it is possible that the individual is unable to feel pleasure without the drug. This condition is referred to as anhedonia.


Addiction is a chronic mental health disorder that results from symptoms and behaviors that are used to diagnose the condition. A person is considered addicted when they cannot function without the substance and cannot stop using. People who are addicted will often put themselves in dangerous situations when using, such as driving while intoxicated. Quality of life diminishes because the addict will choose to use the drug of choice over other activities.

If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction, now is a great time to seek the help you depserately need. The caring and compassionate staff at Baystate Recovery Center will help you or a loved one through the process of breaking free from addiction. When you’re ready to take that first step, call us. We’re ready to help.