The 3 Stages of the Addiction Cycle

To diagnose addiction, your healthcare provider may refer you to a psychiatrist, psychologist or drug and alcohol counselor. Your provider will ask you (and possibly your loved ones) questions about your patterns of substance use or problematic behaviors. Substances send massive surges of dopamine through your brain, too, as well as certain activities, like having sex or spending money. But instead of motivating you to get out of addiction cycle do the things you need to do to survive (eat, work and spend time with loved ones), such massive dopamine levels can have damaging effects on your thoughts, feelings and behavior. Alcohol or drug dependence is when an addict’s body needs the substance to function normally and avoid withdrawal symptoms. Addicts often experience significant changes in their lifestyle and personality to cater to drug or alcohol abuse.

  • Dr. Jonathan Siegel earned his doctoral degree in counselling psychology from the University of Toronto in 1986.
  • A person in the contemplation stage understands the benefits of living drug-free, but they still enjoy the pleasure their addiction brings.
  • The binge/intoxication stage of the addiction cycle is the stage at which an individual consumes the substance of choice.
  • It can affect various aspects of life, including relationships, careers, and self-esteem.
  • Their behaviors lead to strained relationships and endangering others and themselves.
  • For example, people who use methamphetamine for a long time may experience paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions that may be mistaken for symptoms of schizophrenia.

Typically, the addiction cycle involves periods of heavy substance use, separated by periods of self-imposed clean living, which can give a person the impression that they can quit the addiction by deciding not to use anymore. This thinking is deceptive because following any period of sobriety, if a person starts to use substances again, the addiction gets reactivated in the brain, and the cycle of addiction starts all over. The final stage of the cycle – addiction – is marked by a loss of control, compulsive use, and continued use despite harmful consequences. But remember, relapse prevention is possible, and it’s a crucial part of the recovery process. Understanding and identifying each stage is critical for effective relapse prevention, and breaking free from the cycle of addiction is possible, with the right help and support.

Stage 5: Addiction

And while wars are often framed publicly by the West as related to democracy and freedom, it’s more likely about water, land, and the energy resources beneath it, and an invading force that wants to control, access, and plunder it. “I tell a lot of people, ‘If you haven’t been healed from your 8- or 10-year-old self, your 40-, 50- or 60-year-old self still holds onto that trauma,” Donald said. With over 30 years in the counseling field, Donald gained some of her early experience assisting parents and families in poverty. She did a lot of work in southeast Michigan with urban school districts and children in grades K-12.

Breaking free from the relentless grip of substance dependency may feel like an uphill battle, but it’s definitely a fight you can win. Understanding this seemingly ceaseless spiral of dependency involves delving into the intricate phases that trap so many people in a relentless loop of escalating craving, harmful indulgence, and recurring relapse. The process by which the body responds to stressors in order to regain homeostasis.

What are the five addiction stages?

A first-time user feels intense pleasure after using the substance or engaging in the activity and wants the experience again. Addictive substances flood the brain with dopamine, a feel-good chemical that rewards and motivates one to repeat the behavior. Continued exposure to the behavior leads to tolerance, where larger amounts of the substance are required for the same effects. Addiction is a chronic brain disorder that leads a person to lose control over how they use a substance or engage in an activity. An addicted person will crave and seek drugs and alcohol or continuously engage in activities like sex, eating, and gambling despite obvious adverse consequences. To understand the cycle of addiction, it’s important to see addiction as a neurological condition, not the result of weakness or moral failure.

  • By understanding the cycle of addiction, you’re equipped with the tools to identify the signs and patterns of substance abuse.
  • In their quest to avoid pain, addicts turn to their drug of choice for a solution that provides rapid relief, beginning the toxic cycle we call addiction.
  • For some, entry into a religious organization, self-help group or simply developing a better way of life can help.
  • And still others opt for clinical-based recovery through the services of credentialed professionals.


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