Sober living

Explaining the Cycle of Addiction

The cycle of addiction comprises three stages that operate as a repeating loop. A person does not have to start their addiction experience in the first stage, and the stages can be experienced over weeks or months, or even within one day. The maintenance stage of the transtheoretical model of change is concerned with continuing to achieve the progress that began in the action stage. For people with addictions, this means upholding the intentions made during the preparation stage and the behaviors introduced in the action stage. The sequential model provides a useful way of understanding the process of change and gives a structure to how changes in addictive behaviors can be encouraged and managed.

addiction cycles

As a result, this area of the brain plays a key role in this stage. During this stage, a person experiences the rewarding effects of alcohol, such as euphoria, the reduction of anxiety, and the easing of social interactions. Furthermore, according to DSM-5, addiction is the most severe form of a full spectrum of substance use disorders and is a medical illness caused by repeated misuse of a substance or substances. Not all individuals who use prescription medications, drink alcohol, or partake in drug use for the first time intend on becoming addicted. Addiction rarely occurs immediately after the initial use of a substance.


Constant attempts to satisfy the body’s cravings for drugs or alcohol become the person’s new reality. It’s something most people in recovery go through, yet it’s not talked about enough. Though there are many kinds of addictions, each follow a consistent cycle that becomes increasingly difficult to overcome and break free of.

They did not get further treatment after finishing their rehab stay. Alcohol or drug addiction does not simply go away after a person finishes rehab. It is important for people to continue to get the help they need through outpatient programs, 12-Step meetings, and other types of support groups.

addiction cycles

The cost of addiction throughout the U.S. alone is more than a staggering $740 billion annually. Overcoming an addiction is not a simple process, but it is possible with the right addiction treatment program. It is worth noting that signs and symptoms of substance addiction can vary based on the actual substance used, and the method of use, eg. The most important step you can take to prevent opioid addiction? Recognize that no one is safe, and we all play a role in tackling the grip these drugs currently hold on our loved ones and communities.

How Does Addiction Develop in the Brain?

For many people, the action stage starts in a detox or treatment center. Here, trained professionals provide support through the early phases of discontinuing an addiction. Addiction itself can be defined as an excessive behavior or dependence on a substance or action/activity. Addicts use their addition to feel predictability, control, and to lessen tension.

You always feel the need to do the action and have often tried to stop unsuccessfully. Here’s why they happen, plus tips on treatment and support for stopping meth use. The exact symptoms of withdrawal can vary from nausea to seizures. We’ll look at why it’s so important to work with your doctor when stopping Xanax. Might take more of the drug, trying to achieve the same dopamine high. Action – The addict seeks treatment, begins counseling, or starts attending self-help/fellowship groups.

The Most Common Relapse Triggers

This is the period when someone feels the positive effects of drugs or alcohol. They will experience the so-called rewards such as less social anxiety or less anxiety. During this stage, an individual is repeatedly activating the reward system of the basal ganglia.

  • When you take opioids repeatedly over time, your body slows its production of endorphins.
  • People in this stage usually experience their addictive behavior as a positive or pleasant experience.
  • It is worth noting that signs and symptoms of substance addiction can vary based on the actual substance used, and the method of use, eg.
  • This life-threatening practice is even more dangerous if the pill is a long- or extended-acting formulation.
  • This is a cycle in itself – tolerances increase, and so does the amount needed to take, pushing us down the rabbit hole of addiction to a dangerous place.

In this phase, the person struggling with addiction and dependence once again seeks out the substance of choice to reclaim what they feel is a normal emotional and physical state. Once dopamine levels decrease, all of the earlier stress, anxiety, resentment, anger, and fear resurface. Substance abuse and addictive behaviors do not solve any issues but instead exacerbate whatever someone was running from in the first place. As soon as another problem appears, the addiction cycle begins once again, getting worse each time. Addiction is a “chronic, relapsing brain disorder,” meaning there is no known cure for addiction, unfortunately.

Opioids trigger the release of endorphins, your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. Endorphins muffle your perception of pain and boost feelings of pleasure, creating a temporary but powerful sense of well-being. When an opioid dose wears off, you may find yourself wanting those good feelings back, as soon as possible. This is the first milestone on the path toward potential addiction. Opioid use — even short term — can lead to addiction and, too often, overdose.

Positive Effects of Watching TV

Through dual diagnosis treatment, which is for patients with co-occurring disorders. These mental health conditions frequently contribute to addictions. They can make it very difficult to recover unless they’re addressed. Addiction – By this time, the majority of the person’s time understanding the triggers of an alcohol intolerance and effort is spent in the acquisition of more drugs or alcohol. Negative consequences start to appear in every area of their life –Physical health – malnutrition, hepatitis, HIV, cirrhosis, etc. There is a typical set of behaviors that most addicts or alcoholics exhibit.

Tolerance and Dependence

Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health .

According to research published by The European Journal of Social Psychology, forming or breaking a habit takes an average of 66 days. However, every addict is unique and there is no set number of days that it takes to stop the addiction cycle. Setting a specific number of days when you are supposed to break a habit is an obvious way to get frustrated and give up on your sobriety. An addictive cycle includes a range of bad habits, which means that breaking a cycle ill require breaking each of the habits involved in that cycle. Experts believe that repeated and early exposure to addictive substances and behaviors play a significant role. Genetics also increase the likelihood of an addiction by about 50 percent, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

A person becomes preoccupied with alcohol and how to get more of it, and looks forward to the next time he or she will consume it. Repeated activation of the basal ganglia’s reward system reinforces alcohol drinking behavior, increasing the likelihood of repeated consumption. The basal ganglia play an important role in motivation as well as in the formation of habits and other routine behaviors. It’s a reflection of how powerful addiction is to conquer that positive and happy situations, such as birthdays and holidays, can be powerful relapse triggers, too.

Different studies have argued for different amounts of time spent watching TV per day. However, these studies are mostly based on the average person in America. Another study first step recovery center claimed that 4-plus hours is regarded as heavy viewing. Yet another study did not base TV viewing/addiction on hours but on how or if it takes over real-life experiences.

The Addiction Cycle: What Is It, and How Do I Get Out?

Alternatively, one may use drugs or alcohol in a social setting, and decide to try them again just to have fun. Relieved of feelings of discomfort, the person will continue to use drugs or alcohol a second time, a third time and so on. Eventually, from internal turmoil and conflict or through outside interventions, a person can try to stop the addiction cycle and enter a healthier lifestyle called recovery.

In reality, the outcome of the process of change is highly individual. Some people are able to adjust to controlled drinking, drug use, alcohol, headaches and hangovers or addictive behaviors without becoming addicted. For others, abstinence is the only way to keep their addiction under control.

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