Many share the same view when it comes to addiction; that it’s something that is entirely mentally based and a defect in one’s character. However, this simply isn’t the case in reality, as chemical imbalances occur and the body changes in ways that facilitate the addiction further. The brain’s reward system for pleasure, memory, and motivation is affected. Let’s look at the stages of the drug addiction cycle. 

Initial Usethe addiction cycle

There can be triggers that start the cycle, such as abuse, neglect, peer pressure, a troubled living environment, social anxiety, loneliness, depression, and even, a family history of substance abuse. There are so many ways the cycle could begin. It might start with something so nonchalant as a prescription medication, consumption through cultural normalization, or it could be that one of your close friends or a member of your family buys you alcohol or drugs. Even if the intention was not for you to be harmed, it could go that way very easily. It’s not certain that your initial experience will lead to addiction, that depends on the type of person you are and the circumstances surrounding the incident. 

Abuse and Tolerance

The next stage is the abuse of the substance. It’s when a person is irregularly using a medication or abusing an improper substance, more than they were previously. The quantity of the substance and the frequency in which it is being consumed increases and the body and mind start feeling more of the effects. Being on a substance like cocaine will eventually build up a tolerance. This leads to the next stage whereby the body and mind have learned to cope with smaller doses and thus, to get the same effects of the substance you initially felt, an increase in the dosage becomes more apparent. 

There are changes in the brain that occur due to prolonged substance abuse. One condition which has been described by Merck Manuals, the original dosage no longer has the same pleasurable effect and to recapture it, an increase in dosage occurs. This progression also increases tolerance and normalcy in the brain and body. 

Dependence and Addictionthe addiction cycle

Here at our Kentucky State Drug & Alcohol Recovery Treatment center, we seek to understand why and how people become dependent on substances. It’s usually because the use of the drug makes them feel good, forget about their worries, and perhaps, gives them the confidence to be who they want to be. It’s a deeply complex psychological aspect of addiction, that we take pride in understanding and developing treatments for our patients. 

This results in addiction. You start spending large amounts of time seeking out the substance, not just in use but ways of funding the habit. There’s a notable reduction in your participation in most other things. You crave it all the time and you’re unable to focus on and live up to your responsibilities. In short, you become consumed with the substance, and it consumes you.


The final stage of the drug addiction cycle is relapse. This is when the condition has become chronic, to the point where initial medical treatment has failed. The person is back abusing the drug and a recall needs to be made of medical and mental health staff to design a unique treatment plan, more suitable for the individual.

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