The Cycle of Addiction and Relapse: And How To Stop It

cycle of addiction and relapse

The Cycle of Addiction and Relapse: And How To Stop It

Not all individuals who use prescription medications, drink alcohol, or partake in drug use for the first time intend on becoming addicted. Addiction rarely occurs immediately after the initial use of a substance.

Instead, there is a variety of factors likely to contribute to a major addiction with repeated use and exposure. Some of the most prominent triggers and factors present with individuals struggling with an addiction include:

Once addicted, it can become a lifetime struggle for many to regain their sobriety. Often a cycle develops of addiction and relapse, where sufferers find themselves returning to substance abuse. Sometimes new triggers present themselves and in other circumstances, the craving gets the better of them.

Substance Abuse

It is possible to become addicted to drugs such as heroin, methamphetamines, and other opiates after a first-time use. However, substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and prescription medications often require repeated exposure and a tolerance buildup before an individual becomes heavily reliant and dependent on the substance.

Substance abuse is the next step in the development of an addiction. Some of the reasons individuals turn to use substances repeatedly include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feeling of social isolation
  • The inability to cope with high-stress situations
  • Escaping from everyday stresses such as work and family life

While some of the reasons can be traced to mental disorders, others are motives evolve out of a desire to escape a present situation. Physically, addiction causes the same chemical dependencies in the brain regardless of why drugs or alcohol was consumed in the first place.

While treating the physical body addicted to drugs or alcohol through detoxification is the same, treating patients mental requires an individualized approach. Mental illness requires a completely different professional treatment program than those who have become addicted through recreational use.

Addiction and relapse cycles can increase the chance of patients, who may originally have become addicted through recreational, developing clinical mental health disorders. Professional addiction treatment centers specializing in dual diagnosis provide solutions with higher success rates than those that treat only the physical dependency.

Continued after infographic:

cycle of addiction and relapse and how to stop it

Tolerance and Dependence

As an individual’s addiction progresses, their mind and body build a tolerance to the substance. Repeated ingestion and exposure to drugs or alcohol reduces the overall effect a substance has on the body. In turn, individuals may need to consume the substance in higher quantities each time it is used.

As tolerance and dependence continues, individuals feel more reliant on obtaining the feeling of euphoria, calmness, or the high they achieved when they first began using the substance. Often times, tolerance becomes an issue with individuals who are struggling with severe addictions to substances, prompting them to turn to even more dangerous and high-risk drugs.

Even after detoxification treatments have concluded, addiction and relapse can have sufferers seeking dosage levels similar to those of their last use. This presents a dangerous situation where a clean body may overdose on the higher dosage amount since the tolerance has subsided after treatment.

Addiction and Relapse

Once an individual is unable to cope without the use of the drug or substance of their choice, it is likely full-fledged addiction is occurring. Addictions are not always visible at first sight. Some individuals maintain their job and home life without showing blatant signs of addiction or those presented are subtle.

Understanding the signs to look for in an individual struggling with an addiction could very well help save their lives. Although an individual may be fully functional, you or a loved one may have a substance addiction if one or more of the following symptoms exist:

  • Change in personality
  • Increased anxiety and irritability
  • Inability to focus and concentrate
  • Withdrawal from family members and friends
  • Discussions of depression and suicidal ideation
  • Preoccupation with obtaining the drug or substance the individual is addicted to
  • Loss of interest in socializing, hobbies, and outings that were once a source of joy

Individually, someone not abusing drugs or alcohol could present one of these symptoms. After all, each of us can have a bad day. However, it is when one or more of these traits present themselves consistently over time.

Most individuals may be anxious or irritable for a short length of time, perhaps resulting from an upcoming event or situation. When there is constant anxiousness or irritability from seemingly all situations, it may be a clue an addition may behind the change in persona.

Addiction Relapse

Relapse is a possible outcome of any chronic condition. It is when the addiction cycle repeats itself. For those who are battling addiction, a relapse can occur at any time. However, relapse happens most often when either withdrawal symptoms become too severe to overcome, or a triggering event occurs.

Relapse rates average about 50% according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Experiencing a relapse for individuals trying to get clean means an adjustment to their treatment regimen is likely necessary. If sufferers are trying to quit using drugs or alcohol on their own, a relapse may be an indication all contributing factors to one’s substance abuse have not been addressed and inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment may be necessary.

Rehabilitation centers and treatment facilities provide a zero-tolerance environment to help individuals regain control over their lives. A focus is brought upon by rebuilding relationships and personal goals. By treating the physical, mental, and psychological aspects of addiction, the odds of stopping the cycle before a relapse increases.

Breaking the Cycle

The cost of addictions throughout the United States alone is more than a staggering $740 billion annually. Overcoming an addiction is not a simple process. But, it is possible with the right addiction treatment program.

Rehabilitation centers today are treating both the mind and body. But, they cannot help if they do not know who needs assistance. If you or someone you know needs help for alcohol or substance abuse, call one of our treatment professionals today. Help is just a phone call away.

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Jason Bordonaro

I am licensed by the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners as an LPC and LISAC and am a National Certified Counselor with the NBCC. I am currently the clinical director at Springboard Recovery for outpatient treatment of substance use disorders. I am trained in EMDR therapy and hold a Master Level Certification in Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART). I am registered with the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners to provide supervision for interns and associate level counselors.