I use drugs pretty regularly. Does that mean I’m addicted?

People who become addicted to drugs or alcohol typically go through predictable stages of abuse. There are five stages of drug and alcohol abuse that can help determine if you are becoming addicted.


Alcohol or drug use starts with experimentation. In this stage, the use is infrequent and the drug is usually obtained from and used with friends. Some people in this stage are able to stop using on their own. Others, however, who believe their substance abuse is solving their problems or making them feel better begin drinking more alcohol or taking more drugs. Once this happens, these people have moved on to “regular use.”


Regular use

This stage is characterized by use on a regular basis. The person may continue to use with friends or acquaintances or may use the substance while alone.


Problem or risky use

During this stage, the user begins to suffer legal, emotional, physical or social problems like bad grades, behavioral problems at home or at school, car crashes or driving tickets.



Someone who is dependent on drugs and/or alcohol will continue to use these substances regularly despite the harm their use is causing.

These are characteristics of dependence:

  • Regular use of alcohol or other drugs that leads to failure to fulfill major responsibilities related to family or school
  • Repeatedly drinking or using drugs in situations that are hazardous, such as driving
  • Development of increased tolerance to use, meaning more of the drug or alcohol is needed to have the same effect
  • Withdrawal symptoms if a person cuts back on use



At this stage, the drug use is compulsive and out of control. Addiction is a medical condition involving psychological and physical changes from repeated heavy use of alcohol, other drugs or both. People who are addicted typically have little to no control over their cravings for and use of alcohol or drugs.

Whether your drug use is at the experimentation phase or the addiction phase, you can get help and you can beat your drug habit. It is very important that you speak with your doctor or nurse about your options for quitting.