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Seven Steps of The Addiction Cycle


Chronic disease is defined as a condition that must be managed continuously to prevent illness relapse. People who suffer from addiction and have undergone rehabilitation are still at risk of returning to their old ways if they don’t self-monitor themselves daily.

This makes addiction a severe chronic disease in which, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive alcohol consumption, or alcohol use disorder, continues to be one of the leading preventable causes of death.

When a person is diagnosed with an addiction or a substance use disorder (SUD), they also tend to be diagnosed with a mental illness, and vice versa, as confirmed by several national population surveys. This is also evident among youth, with a high rate of adolescents with SUD also having co-occurring mental health issues.

Therefore, people suffering from issues with mental health and addiction will undergo what is known as the “7 Steps of the Addiction Cycle”, which we’ll be going through in this article. We’ll also address alcoholism treatment for breaking the addiction cycle.

The 7 Steps of the Addiction Cycle

1. Initial use

People may turn to substances to cope with the stress created by environmental factors, such as a family history of substance abuse, abuse or neglect, or traumatic relationships. These many reasons depict the first step in the addiction cycle.

2. Abuse

Substance abuse occurs when the person starts consuming the substance regularly in a harmful way. For example, taking a prescription painkiller at a higher dose or more frequently than required counts as substance abuse.

3. Tolerance

The human body and brain react and then adapts to whatever behavior is being conducted, including abuse. Tolerance occurs once the brain changes in response to the substance and, after a while, begins to tolerate it, meaning that the consistent dosage or use starts to produce the physical or mental effect no longer as it did before.

4. Dependence

Eventually, the body and brain become dependent on the substance to function; if the substance were suddenly removed from their daily routine, a person would start experiencing withdrawal symptoms shortly after.

5. Addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) describes addiction as having used a substance more than initially planned and being unable to stop using it.

6. Treatment

Should a person realize they have become addicted, they may choose to seek treatment to end the substance abuse.

7. Relapse

Relapse occurs when control is lost, and the person returns to substance abuse. This can be caused by succumbing to cravings or getting triggered by the environmental factors that started the addiction.

How to Break the Cycle

1. Precontemplation

The pre-contemplation stage is the first stage in a person’s change process.

In this stage, individuals don’t realize they have a problem; they don’t see themselves as having one. They might deny that they have an addiction or even argue that they are perfectly fine without substance use. Some people in this stage feel no desire to stop their addictive behavior.

2. Contemplation

During the contemplation stage, people tend to be more receptive to information about the possible consequences of their addictive behaviors. They might be willing to learn about different approaches to controlling their addiction, but they won’t commit to any one strategy or promise to make a change.

People with addiction often stay in the contemplation stage for many years before they finally decide to get help. When they do, this would mean they are ready to move to the next stage—the preparation stage. However, there is still the possibility of them returning to the pre-contem­plation stage, extending the duration of the cycle.

3. Preparation

The preparation stage occurs when the person starts to plan on how to begin the change process and ensure it succeeds; this is essentially based on what they’ve learned during the contemplation stage.

The planning they’d do involves asking themselves what they’ll do to reduce the substance intake, such as by how much and for how long, and how they are going to commit to quitting entirely.

4. Action

The action stage is where the actual change in behavior begins to take place. Naturally, as with any other change process, this stage is the most challenging and can bring high levels of tension and thoughts of giving up early on in the process.

Taking action, for most people, means they check into a rehabilitation center, where trained professionals support them, or being strict with themselves and having accountability partners in moderating or controlling their behavior.

Seeking Treatment

Often people are ready to take action to stop their addiction but are unsure of where to start. Agape Treatment Center is one of the best drug rehabs in South Florida as we have helped many of our patients to get their lives back, free from addiction.

Our evidence-based drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs are proven to help; all that’s left is to reach out to our drug rehabs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and we’d gladly assist you in recovery.

Preventing Relapse

At Agape Treatment Center, we help our patients develop healthy coping skills so they can integrate them into their daily lives and break their cycle of addiction. Throughout the stages of recovery, cravings for drugs or alcohol may arise, which is part of the healing process. Our patients have succeeded in overcoming their cravings with the help of our therapies and professionals.

How to Find Additional Support

If you’re struggling with an addiction problem, don’t hesitate to seek support from your loved ones, friends, family members, and professional counselors. You can also give us a call and we can help you get the resources you need.

Call the Agape Treatment Center admissions team at 888-614-0077 to learn more about what our addiction and mental health facilities can do for you or your loved one.

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