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The Cycle of Addiction

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cycle addiction substance drugs alcoholThe Cycle of Addiction

Addiction is a problem that affects millions of people all over the world. Whether addiction to drugs, alcohol, or gambling, it can have a devastating effect on both the addict and their loved ones. This blog post will discuss the cycle of addiction and what you need to know to break free from its grip.

In definition, addiction is a chronic brain disease that negatively impacts the motivation, memory, pleasure, and reward of the brain. Just like other chronic ailments, it does not occur one day. In many cases, many circumstances line up, which eventually lead to an individual that would avoid drug abuse or enjoy his/her drink becoming dependent on alcohol and substance use. The addiction development process often happens through various stages, and just like the other chronic diseases, it results in the addiction, abstinence or treatment, withdrawal, and relapse cycle.

The various addiction stages can happen quickly, with others manifesting after months or years. An individual that enjoys a casual drink can, within years, develop an alcoholic habit. The development of addiction is not merely related to the substance or behavior. Addiction is also influenced by the individual’s genetic makeup and even environmental factors that can push someone to become addicted or keep away from such behaviors.

In the case of an addict, whether a drug user, alcohol user, obese person, etc., they often lack the motivation to break this addiction. A person that struggles with addiction tends to exhibit certain behaviors, which involve avoiding withdrawal symptoms and cravings, despite their harmful effects on their life.


The Cycle of Addiction

In some cases, the cycle of addiction manifests simultaneously. For instance, drug addicts tend to avoid their withdrawal symptoms by taking more of the drug, leading to a higher tolerance, and eventually, he/she needs more drugs. Alcoholics also tend to exhibit this behavior – they drink first to cope with stress or depression. The next day, they feel guilty for their actions; however, instead of avoiding alcohol, they drink more to forget their actions.

The cycle of addiction, when left untreated, affects the individual’s brain functions and also their social life. Such a person tends to neglect his/her family members; however, they tend to find comfort in others who do not have an addiction. This is one of the main reasons addicts are prone to avoid their problems and increase their use of drugs or alcohol. However, this cannot last for years; eventually, they reach a point where the addiction worsens.

This is the most difficult part of an addict’s life since it can lead to severe consequences. Some people with drug abuse problems tend to experience memory loss affecting their mental health and continue to endanger their lives and health. Such people need to seek help from addiction treatment programs since they provide the necessary support.

In general, drug addiction stages are:


Initial Use

There are several premises for people struggling with addiction to start using substances. It can be as benign as taking prescription medicine to deal with a mental health problem or pain, as culturally normal as taking your first bottle of alcohol at the age of 21, or as basic as being peer-pressured by family and friends to try out marijuana or cigarettes. Irrespective of the initial use process, this is the first step of drug and substance use.

Whether initial use results in addiction depends on different factors. Some of the risk factors of one developing an addiction after initial use include:

The more risk factors present, the higher chances of developing an addiction. However, these risk factors won’t result in an individual developing addiction or any other substance use disorder. Other factors manifest as one progresses to the other addiction stages.



Abuse is the stage where drug use begins to impact the life of the individual. By this time, he/she has developed a tolerance to and can no longer experience the earlier effect. This triggers him/her to take more of the substance, leading them to develop dependency since they cannot function without it.

There is a change in behavior during this stage. The individual may begin to steal money from friends or family members, neglect his/her responsibilities or begin to have recurrent legal concerns due to their use of drugs/alcohol. At this point, they will be at risk of developing serious health problems, such as liver damage and mental health issues.

Abuse of illicit drugs and substances like methamphetamine and heroin happens the first time a user indulges. In contrast with legal substances such as alcohol, prescription medications, or tobacco, it is hard to identify when the abuse starts, but it is defined as the point where the user indulges to get high or the euphoric feeling created by the drug, instead of the substance’s treatment or social aspect. In some instances, abuse of a drug and substance use manifests from an individual using medicine to self-treat physical or mental issues devoid of the doctor’s advice.



The substance has begun to affect the individual’s life, and he/she cannot be without it for a single day. By this time, they have developed a tolerance to the substance they use and will need more of it to experience the earlier effect. Tolerance also manifests when the original use or dosage of the drug does not bring the same mental or physical impact. This can push the individual using the drug to raise the use frequency or dosage to get the effects. This might work for some time, but it often leads to the tolerance of the use frequency and dosage, prompting one to increase use again, thus leading to heavy substance abuse.

Tolerance often shows that the brain has altered its response to the substance or drug. For stimulants such as methamphetamine, this entails the loss of some chemical receptors of the brain or reducing brain chemical generation. Gradually, the user’s brain changes and adjusts its drug presence response. This ultimately causes dependence on substances or drugs.



As dependence progresses, it will become harder for individuals to function normally without substance use. In some instances, people dependent on a substance can experience withdrawal symptoms that can be very uncomfortable if not dangerous. In some instances, this is because their body has adapted to the presence of the substance, and simply removing it can be fatal.

Dependence on a drug such as cocaine usually means that the user’s body has adapted to its presence and won’t function normally during the withdrawal period. Withdrawal symptoms of drugs such as alcohol or benzodiazepines include shaking, sweating, nausea/vomiting, and even seizures if not managed properly.

Tolerance and dependence might be challenging to identify if an individual uses the drug for medicinal purposes, but it becomes easier as the stages progress. An example of this is someone who has been using heroin for the treatment of chronic pain. At first, they will only need a small dosage now and then, but as time passes, they will notice that they need more of it to achieve the desired effect. This is because their tolerance is up and will increase dosage if no intervention occurs.

Not all cases of dependence on drugs can be classified as an addiction. For instance, someone who uses the drug only when they need it to treat asthma symptoms is not necessarily addicted.

Even though the distinction between dependence and addiction is complex, some key factors can help classify one of these conditions. One of these is whether craving for the substance/drug has become the center of one’s life. When addiction sets in, it becomes difficult for an individual to function normally without using the drug. Most of their time is spent trying to get more of the substance or thinking about how to acquire it.



Addiction is defined as the compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance, or an unusually intense impulse to engage in a habit-forming behavior. This means that one finds it hard to abstain from using drugs even if they are aware of its negative effects on their lives, which makes it different from dependence.

This might sound like a heavy mental condition, but a mild addiction can be brought on by a short period of substance abuse. For instance, one might feel the pressure to use cocaine once they attend a party where it is present despite not having any intention of doing so before going to the party.

In most cases, people recovering from an addiction will need help to overcome it. There are currently several treatment options available, including psychedelics, traditional addiction therapies, and prescription medications that target the brain signaling system associated with addiction.



Psychedelics have shown promising results in treating both dependence and addiction to drugs such as cocaine or alcohol. Many call this a “mystical” effect. Studies have shown that psychedelics increase the serotonin neurotransmitter in the brain, which is responsible for mood regulation. Addiction has been associated with low levels of this neurotransmitter. It’s possible that one could use psychedelics to improve their mood and reduce cravings for substances/drugs.

Many advocates of psychedelic use claim that using psychedelics can help an individual achieve enlightening experiences that will make them realize the destructiveness of their former behavior. They claim that this realization helps people change their perspectives and prevents relapse.

Besides using psychedelics, traditional addiction therapies also treat dependence and addiction. This form of therapy usually involves group counseling sessions led by health professionals who help patients identify and manage factors that might trigger their addiction. Such therapy aims to boost the addict’s self-esteem and reverse the negative thoughts associated with substance abuse.

In addition, prescription medications have been developed to treat drug dependence and addiction by targeting neurotransmitters involved in this process. For instance, some antidepressants have been developed to increase serotonin levels in the brain. This is particularly useful for treating addiction because of how closely related low serotonin levels are with drug dependence.



Relapse is when an individual who has recovered from addiction returns to using drugs or engaging in other addictive behaviors. Many addicts relapse because they think that they are completely cured, which isn’t true. This is known as spontaneous recovery.

It’s important to note that relapse doesn’t have to happen for one to recover from their addiction. Recovery is a process and not an end result. There are many cases where addicts attempt to quit their addiction before they finally manage to do it.

To avoid relapse, they should seek help from a therapist or join a support group. Keep in contact with people who in recovery because they can serve as good role models.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that relapse doesn’t indicate that one has failed in their attempts to quit their addiction. This is because addiction affects everyone differently.


Interrupting The Drug Addiction Cycle

One of the reasons it is so essential for those suffering from addiction to interrupt the drug addiction cycle is because this pattern includes physical and psychological issues. When someone uses drugs, they might first have a “positive” experience, leading them to want more. The more they use, the less pleasurable these experiences become, making them want to use them even more. Eventually, this pattern leads to that person feeling as though they can’t live without drugs having it becomes an obsession.

Interrupting the drug addiction cycle is a vital part of the recovery process from drug addiction. Without interrupting this cycle, those addicted to drugs likely will not be able to stop using drugs on their own. In fact, some medical experts believe that those who choose to quit “cold turkey” are more likely to relapse because the withdrawal symptoms they make them think that they need to use drugs. At Granite Recovery Centers, we can help you overcome these withdrawal symptoms to stop using drugs naturally.

Please give us a call at Granite Recovery Centers today, and let us help you end the cycle.