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  • Elevated Healing Treatment Centers

The 5 Stages of Addiction

Updated: Jul 3

Understanding the stages of addiction can be valuable in recognizing the signs and seeking appropriate treatment programs. At Elevated Healing Treatment Centers, we provide comprehensive treatment for individuals at any stage of addiction, using evidence-based approaches such as CBT therapy and EMDR. Here, we outline the five stages of addiction to help shed light on this complex process.


The first stage of addiction begins with experimentation. This is often a voluntary action where an individual tries a substance out of curiosity, social pressure, or a desire to experience a new sensation. During this stage, the person typically believes they have control over their use and do not anticipate potential future problems. However, even occasional use can set the stage for more regular patterns of behavior, especially if the experience provides significant pleasure or relief from stress or anxiety.

Regular Use

As experimentation evolves into regular use, the individual begins to incorporate the substance into their routine. This stage is characterized by predictable patterns of use, such as drinking alcohol every weekend or using drugs to cope with specific situations, such as social gatherings or stressful events. At this point, the person might still believe they have control, but the regularity of use increases the risk of developing a dependence.

Risky Use

Risky use is marked by the continuation of substance use despite clear negative consequences. This stage involves taking substances in situations that are physically dangerous, such as driving under the influence, or continuing use despite damage to relationships, work performance, or health. The person may begin to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression as a result of their substance use, yet they persist in their behavior, indicating a deeper reliance on the substance.


In the dependence stage, the individual's body and mind have become used to constant substance use, leading to tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. Tolerance means that the person needs to consume more of the substance to achieve the same effect, while withdrawal refers to the physical and psychological symptoms that occur when the substance is not consumed or available. This stage is critical as it signals a loss of control over substance use and an inability to stop despite a desire to do so.


The final stage is addiction, also known as substance use disorder. At this point, the individual is consumed by their need for the substance, which becomes the central focus of their life. Addiction is characterized by compulsive use, an inability to manage intake, and continued use despite significant harm and negative effects. The individual may suffer from a range of co-occurring issues, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and eating disorders.

Recognizing these stages can be the first step toward seeking help. At Elevated Healing Treatment Centers, we provide a range of therapies, including IOP programs, to support individuals at any stage of addiction. Our compassionate team is dedicated to helping you or your loved one on the path to recovery and a healthier, more fulfilling life.

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