Addiction is a cycle. The cycle of addiction is created by changes produced in brain chemistry from substance abuse. It is perpetuated by physiological, psychological and emotional dependency. This cycle of addiction continues unrestrained until some type of intervention occurs (self-intervention, legal, family, etc.).
There is sometimes a perception that addiction is something that either exists in a person’s character or does not. 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. However, the reality is a bit more complex than that.
Interrupting the Cycle
An individual may go through multiple attempts to stop using a substance before realizing that addiction is a factor. However, when addiction is diagnosed, it is possible to interrupt this cycle of addiction, abstinence, and relapse by getting the professional treatment that is backed by research showing its ability to help. Multiple methods, including cognitive and behavioural therapies, peer group support, and other physical and mental health treatments can encourage the person to develop tools for managing this chronic, recurring condition.
As with the medications and therapies used to treat asthma and diabetes, the treatments in addiction rehab are designed to help the person learn to manage a chronic substance use disorder and reduce the likelihood of relapse to drug use. With motivation and experienced, certified help, these individuals can learn to interrupt the addiction cycle and move forward into the sustained abstinence that heralds recovery and results in a more positive future.
Unfortunately, relapse can occur during the action or maintenance stage, which means the addict or alcoholic again enters the cycle of addiction.
The Drug Personality
The drug personality develops though continued, chronic use. There is a typical set of behaviours that most addicts or alcoholics exhibit. When taken as a whole, the following symptoms are strong indicators of addiction.
The Cycle of Addiction Is Characterized By:
- Frustration and internal pain that leads to anxiety and a demand for relief of these symptoms
- Fantasizing about using alcohol and drugs or behaviours to relieve the uncomfortable symptoms
- Obsessing about using drugs and alcohol and how his or her life will be after the use of substances
- Engaging in the addictive activity, such as using substances to gain relief (acting out)
- Losing control over the behaviour
- Developing feelings of remorse, guilt and shame, which lead to feelings of dissatisfaction
- Making a promise or resolve to oneself to stop the behaviour or substance use
After a period of time, the pain returns, and the addict begins to experience the fantasies of using substances again.
This cycle can rotate on a variable basis. For example, binge users rotate through this cycle more slowly. Daily users may rotate through the cycle of addiction daily or several times throughout the day. This cycle can be arrested at any point after the addict or alcoholic makes a decision or is forced to get help. Sometimes, the consequences that arise (legal, financial, medical or social) force the addict or alcoholic to stop using. However, in the absence of outside help, such as alcohol or drug detox followed by addiction treatment help, the substance abuse or addictive behaviour is likely to return.