The Common Stages of Drug Abuse

Jan 16, 2019

While there are certainly genetic factors that influence it, there’s no such thing as someone who is simply born with addiction. Substance abuse, drug abuse and other forms of addiction develop over time, just like many other diseases.

At Renaissance Ranch, our addiction treatment is aimed at finding the roots of the issues that lead to struggles. Within drug abuse specifically, this is often about finding the beginnings of the addiction and tracing it back to what caused it. Many forms of drug addiction follow common patterns – let’s look at a few of the typical stages of drug use.


Often during teen years (but possible at any age), the first stage of almost all drug abuse is basic experimentation. Very few people throw themselves straight into regular drug use, though the desire for the feelings drugs can provide may cause some to move to common use pretty quickly.

For some people, that’s the end of drug use. For others, though, this is just the start of a long term struggle with abuse.

Regular Use

From here, regular use of drugs or alcohol may begin. During this stage, the person affected still possesses the ability to moderate and control their usage, but it’s beginning to increase and become a normal part of their life. They may begin to show limited signs of depression or anxiety, and certain risky behaviors may creep into their life.

Abuse and Dangerous Behavior

As use becomes more of a part of daily routine, it may replace other necessary tasks and cause the sufferer to disregard many normal behaviors. They may frequently drive under the influence or use drugs around children, and they’ll often start seeing negative consequences at work and with other responsibilities. But despite these, the addiction keeps its hold.

Addiction and Dependency

The final stage is full-on addiction, which is often marked by a strong chemical dependency to a substance. People in this stage need their fix to get through each day, and could legitimately die or see major health issues if they don’t get it. This is the stage where addiction has progressed to a fully functional brain disease, and drug rehabilitation is often one of the only solutions.