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Cycle of Addiction

The Cycle of Addiction

The exact stages of the cycle of addiction differ depending on who you ask but they all have common themes. One thing that is for sure is that the cycle of addiction is created by changes produced in brain chemistry due to substance abuse. It is then perpetuated by physiological, emotional, and psychological dependency. The cycle generally continues until some type of intervention occurs.

The Cycle of Addiction: Emotional Trigger

This is the first step in the cycle of addiction. It begins with an experience that causes negative emotions like anxiety, shame, guilt, sadness, or anger. A person then turns to an unhealthy means to cope with these emotions i.e. drugs and alcohol. These things do work in allaying the uncomfortable emotion for a short time.

The Cycle of Addiction: Cravings

Now that the person has experienced relief in the drugs and alcohol, they will begin to crave drugs every time they want the same emotional relief. Drug craving is a learned response involving social and environmental cues. An addict will then begin obsessing about use.

The Cycle of Addiction: Ritual

The ritual part comes with repeating the same behavior every time a certain cue occurs. For example, someone who has a stressful day drinks alcohol when they get home to relax (emotional trigger). They then start to crave alcohol when they are stressed (Cravings). They repeat the behavior of treating stress with alcohol over and over (ritual), and it becomes an addiction. They begin to lose control.

The Cycle of Addiction: Remorse

In the next step on the cycle of addiction, an addict will feel remorse, guilt or shame. At this point, they may want to stop and make promises to themselves that they will stop, but they are unable to follow through. The uncomfortable emotions just fuel the addiction and they repeat the cycle.

The Cycle of Addiction: Variances

The cycle of addiction can vary based on a number of factors. Some addicts are able to stop for a period of time after they feel guilt about the addiction, but then the pain returns and the addict begins craving drugs again. Binge users rotate through this cycle more slowly. Daily users may rotate through the cycle of addiction daily or several times throughout the day.

The Cycle of Addiction: Breaking the Cycle

Breaking the cycle of addiction can come at any time after the addict or alcoholic makes a decision or is forced to get help. Sometimes, negative  legal, financial, medical or social force the addict or alcoholic to stop using, but in the absence of outside help, the substance abuse is likely to return. The stages of recovery from the cycle of addiction are as follows:

  1. Pre-contemplation -The addict has not yet considered stopping addictive behavior or substance abuse.
  2. Contemplation – The addict is starting to consider making a change in behavior.
  3. Preparation – The addict is mentally preparing to make a change
  4. Action – The addict has taken action, such as seeking treatment, self-help groups, or counseling.
  5. Maintenance – The addict is maintaining his or her new lifestyle and behavior, following a recovery program.

If you or your loved one is in need of treatment for alcohol or drug addiction please give us a call at 800-951-6135.


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