The Addiction Cycle What Are The Stages of Addiction?


It’s considered a chronic disease that involves impaired control and craving. A paper from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showed that addiction doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a process. The same research reveals that the addiction process may vary from one person to another. The course at which addiction develops may reflect individual differences prior to engaging in the addictive behavior. Many self-described addicts have reported feeling “different” from others long before developing their addictions. Addiction to drugs, medications, and alcohol is prevalent in the United States and worldwide, despite the fact that such a wide prevalence of addiction is largely misunderstood.

  • At this point, the only way out for the individual is to seek professional addiction treatment.
  • People with addiction have a strong urge to use a certain substance(s) to the point where it controls their life.
  • Various factors play a role, including the substance used, genetic predisposition, the amount used, among others.

The length of the cycle varies among addicts, and it’s difficult to break out of the addiction cycle without help. A binge user can go through the stages of the cycle several times a day, while others can take years to complete one cycle. An external intervention or the addiction’s consequences (financial, legal, social, medical) can disrupt the cycle at any point.

Explaining the Cycle of Addiction

As defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine, addiction is a chronic brain disease that affects the brain’s reward, pleasure, memory, and motivation. Often, several circumstances line up that, over time, cause a person who would otherwise enjoy casual drinking or avoid substance abuse to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. The process of developing addiction in this case tends to occur over a series of stages and, like other chronic illnesses, often turns into a cycle of addiction, treatment or abstinence, and relapse.

Addiction doesn’t occur overnight; it’s not something that develops instantly. The addiction disorder develops gradually through different stages that may occur at the same time. The process through which addiction forms may differ from one person to another. Different drugs produce distinct patterns of addiction that engage different components of the addiction cycle. Each stage of addiction involves changes in critical neurotransmitters and neurocircuits.

Action Stage

Take up a new hobby, start a journal, join a volunteer organization, or register for piano lessons; any enjoyable activity that takes you away from your triggers will contribute towards beating the cycle. Understanding drug abuse and addiction are necessary get out of addiction cycle for successful management. Drug abuse is the use of an illegal substance or the improper use of a legal substance. A person can engage in drug abuse without being necessarily addicted, but continuous substance abuse will inevitably lead to an addiction.

With a wealth of knowledge and services to help you take back control of your drinking, request a call-back from one of our professionals today. If you believe you or someone you love may be struggling with addiction, let us hear your story and help you determine a path to treatment. Seth brings many years of professional experience working the front lines of addiction in both the government and privatized sectors. The brain is connected by millions of nerve cells (neurons) that control feelings, movement, and bodily sensations. Nerve cell action is regulated by neurotransmitters, chemical messengers that carry and balance signals throughout the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates the brain’s reward and impulse control system.

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By creating new achievable goals, you give yourself something to look forward to each day besides getting high. The first thing you want to do is to recognize that addiction is a disease that requires decisive action. Many people cannot break out of the addiction cycle due to denial or justification of the problem. If your loved one is trapped in the addiction cycle, the first thing is to help them see that they have a problem. These changes will work for a while until the brain becomes tolerant to the new dosage, forcing the person to increase the dosage again.

However, for most people struggling with addiction, there are stages of substance use that lead to the person becoming addicted. Ritual behaviors can be described as activities, thoughts or ideas that addicts engage in as part of their addiction. In a sense, ritual behavior can be seen as preparation leading to using or acting out. For example, a sex addict may start looking at porn and fantasizing about sex.