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An addiction is defined as, “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” Right there in the definition, it becomes clear there’s a cycle, or repetitive series of events, that fuels addiction. 

Drug addiction is a disease of the brain. Using drugs changes the brain’s structure and how it functions. These changes cause the destructive behaviors that are associated with drug addiction. While the brain changes can be long-lasting, they are also preventable and treatable. A huge part of the work that’s done in an addiction recovery center is breaking the cycle of addiction so that long-term sobriety is possible. 

Understanding the Stages of the Addiction Cycle

To break the addiction cycle you must first know how it works. The first few times that a person uses a drug the decision is usually voluntary. In that initial use, the person may get a “high” or negative feelings may be reduced. The experience can prompt further use of the drug in order to feel the high or relief again.

But with continued use, tolerance builds and drug use increases. Then dependence forms, creating a physical need for the drug to function. At this point self-control is all but lost. When self-control is lost addiction develops. This loss of control may become apparent to the addict and possibly people close to them. But brain imaging also shows what is happening internally to cause loss of self-control. Habitual drug use changes the part of the brain that regulates behavioral control and decision making, allowing an addiction to take hold. 

These physical brain changes perpetuate the addiction cycle, which is broken down into five stages:

  • Craving/Anticipation
  • Drug Seeking
  • Drug Use
  • Gratification
  • Negative Feelings/Withdrawal

Once the negative feelings and withdrawal sets in, the cycle restarts as the person begins craving the drug again and anticipating the relief it will provide. This is why so many people relapse. Changes in the brain that create an addiction cycle make it extremely difficult to stay sober. To achieve long–term sobriety the addiction cycle must be broken.

4 Steps to Breaking the Addiction Cycle

Today you can find drug addiction treatment centers in Dallas for every type of substance abuse disorder. No matter what drug is being abused, breaking the addiction cycle is part of effectively treating the disease. 

Address the Underlying Issue Driving Drug Use

Some people take a drug for the first time out of curiosity, but habitual drug use suggests a deeper reason for the behavior. Often people who habitually use drugs do so because they are attempting to feel better or find relief from stress, anxiety, pain, fear, etc. Drugs provide instant relief, but that relief doesn’t last long.

Instead, once the drugs wear off and dopamine levels drop the person is feeling just as bad or worse than before. So, what do they do? Rather than seeking out a healthy solution for addressing the underlying problem they turn to drugs again for a quick fix. 

To break the cycle you have to identify the underlying issue that motivated the initial drug use and continues the addiction. Our partial hospitalization program in Dallas uses a “whole person” treatment approach for this very reason. Without first identifying and addressing the underlying issues the risk of relapse is much higher. Also, simply acknowledging the underlying issues may be enough to motivate someone to break the addiction cycle.

Set Goals for Getting Out of the Addiction Cycle

Setting goals is a powerful action no matter what type of unhealthy habit you’re trying to break. Simply making a goal increases your odds of achieving a certain result. Even though a goal is what you’re trying to reach, it also helps you put things in perspective and understand what needs to be done to get there. 

The best approach is to set a long-term goal as well as short-term goals that are easier to reach and get you closer to the long-term goal. These goals help keep a person motivated and accountable along the way to recovery.

Get Help and Support

Now that goals have been set, it’s time to find help to reach them. Breaking the addiction cycle is extremely difficult to do on your own. It may even require medical assistance. Professional help from an addiction recovery center is highly recommended. Drug treatment programs provide a high level of support and structure that takes a person out of the addiction cycle. Knowing that you have a team of knowledgeable professionals to rely on provides an added level of assurance and confidence that can make the difference between staying sober and relapsing. 

Create a Treatment Plan That Breaks Unhealthy Habits

Creating an effective, comprehensive treatment plan is another reason it’s important to seek professional assistance. The experts who manage detox centers, intensive outpatient programs, and partial hospitalization programs in Dallas will have all the tools at their disposal to help break the addiction cycle. They also understand the importance of creating a treatment plan that addresses all aspects of addiction and focuses on building healthy habits for coping with underlying issues. 

Breaking the Generational Cycle of Addiction

When addiction is prevalent in a family across multiple generations it’s called a generational cycle of addiction. Essentially, children learn by observing their parents early in life. If a parent is abusing drugs or alcohol it can lead to the same behavior in their children. 

In addition to environmental exposure, researchers have found a genetic link to addiction. Both of these factors can increase the risk of drug and alcohol addiction. 

If there’s a generational cycle of addiction, family members who aren’t affected have to be proactive, even with young children. Prevention is the best approach for breaking the cycle. Here are some things you can do to break the generational addiction cycle:

  • Analyze your own behavior to determine if your substance use is a negative factor – be a good role model.
  • Educate yourself on what types of drugs are currently popular and available in your area. 
  • Be open and honest about drug use when discussing the issue.
  • Try not to pass judgment or criticize. 
  • Monitor the activities of children and teens, be involved in their daily life. 
  • Set boundaries for behavior and consequences. 
  • Get professional help if a young family member is using drugs or a teen shows signs of drug use

If you want to break the addiction cycle you don’t have to try to do it alone. The Lighthouse Recovery Partial Hospitalization Program in Dallas, TX can be the first step in breaking the addiction cycle or the next step in maintaining sobriety after an inpatient program. To find out more about treatment options, schedule a free addiction assessment with a trained professional.


Learn more about our services or contact us below to discover how Lighthouse can help you on your road to recovery today. Thank you for your trust.