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Break the cycle of addiction with these strategies to keep dopamine in check : Life Kit : NPR

Interwoven genetic and environmental factors drive the changes found on a molecular level during the addiction cycle. These genes are involved with the brain regions described in the addiction cycle or with the metabolism of a specific addictive substance. The strengthened “anti-reward” system drives chronic withdrawal in patients with addictive disorders.

what is the cycle of addiction

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. The treatment process for alcohol addiction typically involves a combination of medical, psychological, and social interventions aimed at helping individuals overcome their dependence on alcohol and achieve and maintain sobriety. The process can vary based on individual needs, the severity of the addiction, and the chosen treatment approach. In this stage, individuals become preoccupied with thoughts of obtaining the addictive substance or engaging in the addictive behaviour.

The Addiction Cycle: What Are The Stages of Addiction?

Healthcare providers and the medical community now call substance addiction substance use disorder. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has concrete diagnostic criteria for substance use disorders. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) defines addiction as a chronic brain disorder. Addiction doesn’t happen from having a lack of willpower or as a result of making bad decisions.

Many people in this stage remain immobilized due to their ambivalence towards change. Some studies suggest a person’s risk of becoming addicted is partly genetic, but environmental factors, such as being around other people with addictions, are also thought to increase the risk. Many who were interviewed during their stay in a partial hospitalization program don’t remember when their addiction truly began. This could be due to several things, such as trauma, where the person tries everything to try to forget the horrors that they have seen or have been exposed to. In other cases, they could not remember because their cognitive functions have already been significantly affected by their substance abuse. A person’s memory is typically one of the first things to be affected when a person is heavily into substance abuse.

Addiction Defined

An addict or alcoholic may understand the cycle of addiction, but will remain unable to break the repetition of the cycle until they develop the insight to seek help. As a mental health practitioner, you can create a specific and acceptable action plan, along with a timeline for its implementation. Many conventional programs that focus on action-oriented behavior change are suitable for developing a change plan tailored to individuals in this stage. The cycle of addiction begins when a person gets their first taste of the substance and experiences its effects. There are many cases where a person initially uses the substance purely for medicinal purposes, such as those who take prescription painkillers to help them deal with chronic pain. Many take stimulants to help them deal with particular conditions, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

what is the cycle of addiction

Understanding the addiction cycle helps a person to recognize and seek help for their addiction. Finding professional support is the most effective way of breaking the addiction cycle. Many people try to stop their addiction multiple times before realizing they cannot do it without external help.


Use of these substances can lead to substance use disorders (SUDs) — but not always. Addiction refers to behavior patterns where people continue seeking and using habit-forming substances. People with addiction keep using habit-forming substances, which cause tolerance and get out of addiction cycle withdrawal symptoms. Addiction leads to harmful consequences and lasting brain changes, setting it apart from other substance misuse. In the fourth stage, the individual does not only need the substance or the activity for pleasure; they need it for normal functioning.

  • 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.
  • For a holistic approach, therapies that address mental and emotional health are vital.
  • This idea can lead to a belief that a person who is struggling with addiction to a substance may have had one drink or tried an illicit drug one time and immediately became addicted.
  • One adaption arises from within the reward system, where chronic exposure to a reward decreases dopaminergic tone in the NAcc.
  • A properly functioning reward system motivates a person to repeat behaviors needed to thrive, such as eating and spending time with loved ones.

At this point, the user is no longer in control of their actions and will continue to fight overwhelming urges with little to no success. This is why it’s crucial to tackle addiction as a disease that requires professional intervention. Once a person is trapped in the cycle of addiction, the power to choose by self-will alone is lost. To understand the cycle of addiction, it’s important to see addiction as a neurological condition, not the result of weakness or moral failure. Anyone with a recurrent substance abuse problem is in the cycle of addiction. A person trapped in this cycle will use their substance of choice as usual, and by external influences or willpower, they will stop using and begin a period of self-imposed sobriety.

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