We can easily consider the six stages of addiction as a wheel that keeps turning and turning on the road. Dependence doesn’t necessarily occur due to illicit and addictive drugs all the time. Non-addictive drugs can also produce dependence in some patients, but they’re not the subject of this post. Tolerance means the current get out of addiction cycle dose of a drug (or the amount of alcohol) is not enough for a person to achieve the pleasurable effects. Then, they try to increase it, but this only leads to tolerance to that new dose, and the cycle continues. A patient with a prescription for painkillers may decide to take a higher dosage to eliminate the pain.

what is the first stage in the cycle of addiction

During Stage 2, there are little to no cravings for the drug and the individual will still be making a conscious choice of whether to use or not. They may use it impulsively or in a controlled manner, and the frequency of both options mainly depends on a person’s nature and reason for using the drug. There is no dependency at this point, and the individual can still quit the drug easily if they decide to. If circumstances align and the individual continues to take the drug, they may soon find themselves in the second stage of addiction. It’s crucial to consult with healthcare professionals or addiction specialists to determine the most appropriate treatment option based on individual needs. When a person engages in activities that are pleasurable or rewarding, the brain releases neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine, which creates a sense of pleasure and reinforces the behavior.

Understanding Addiction

These executive function deficits parallel changes in the prefrontal cortex and suggest decreased activity in the Stop system and greater reactivity of the Go system in response to substance-related stimuli. The positively reinforcing effects of substances tend to diminish with repeated use. This is called tolerance and may lead to use of the substance in greater amounts and/or more frequently in an attempt to experience the initial level of reinforcement. Eventually, in the absence of the substance, a person may experience negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, or depression, or feel physically ill. This is called withdrawal, which often leads the person to use the substance again to relieve the withdrawal symptoms.

Abusing drugs or alcohol impacts the brain, causing progressive changes in the structure and function of the brain. The individual now has cravings for the substance, because their brain has adapted to its continual presence. In turn, the individual now spends their time seeking https://ecosoberhouse.com/ it out, using, to the detriment of everything else. Relationships, social activities, and daily responsibilities fall by the wayside. The user no longer limits themselves by setting or time, what started as weekend binge drinking becomes bathroom shots at work to get their fix.


Recognizing the signs of substance dependency is crucial in order to facilitate early intervention and prevent further harm. It is important to explore the available addiction treatment options to support individuals in their journey towards recovery. As experimentation progresses, individuals may move into the regular use stage. In this stage, the substance or behavior becomes more integrated into their routine. They may use it as a way to relax, cope with stress, or enhance certain experiences. The frequency and quantity of use increase, and it starts to have a noticeable impact on their social, emotional, or physical well-being.

The stages of addiction follow a similar pattern and understanding them is critical to intervene before the disease progresses too far. The stages of addiction can occur quickly or take a significant amount of time to develop like months or years. Someone who engaged in casual use for a long time can find themselves dealing with addiction once a particular circumstance occurs to inflate their substance use. The cycle of addiction starts with the initial use of the substance or engaging in an addictive activity. The first stage in the addiction cycle could be triggered by peer pressure, boredom, stress, curiosity, or performance enhancement. The action stage is characterized by concrete steps toward overcoming addiction.

How to Interrupt the Cycle?

Similar to other chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, and hypertension, addiction usually involves relapse and remission cycles. It’s important to get addiction treatment in a luxury rehab program in Los Angeles, such as ours at Westwind Recovery® if you struggle with substance use. There are many different treatment programs that can help people overcome alcohol and drug addiction. There are inpatient programs that allow people to live at the facility and receive 24/7 care. If someone can’t attend an inpatient program they can also find a customized outpatient program that fits their specific needs. Understanding the addiction cycle helps a person to recognize and seek help for their addiction.

Medical professionals are often included in this discussion and are often necessary to explain how the addictive behavior is putting the individual in serious danger. In the fourth stage, the individual does not only need the substance or the activity for pleasure; they need it for normal functioning. Dependence brings on extremely negative feelings without the substance or activity of choice.