The Cycle of Addiction

The cycle of addiction is the closed-loop of obsessive behavior when someone has any substance or behavioral dependency. Once a user becomes dependent on any substance or behavior, they are trapped.

The 3 C’s of addiction:

  • compulsive use
  • cutting down
  • continued use despite consequences

Addicts get trapped in a closed loop of using or behaving again and again with no way out:

  • An addict is at the mercy of their disease.
  • They are powerless to escape.
  • There is no way out.

Addictive behavior drives using, which leads to withdrawal, creating the pains of craving. Cravings a mental obsession to relieve the compulsion. It is an endless wheel an addict cannot escape without help.

Five stages of the cycle of addiction;

  • Bingeing
  • Gratification
  • Withdrawal
  • Craving
  • Relief seeking

The DSM defines a substance use disorder as “…all drug use in excess have in common direct activation of the brain reward system, which is involved in the reinforcement of behaviors and the production of memories.”

Dependence is the underlying condition of the closed cycle triggering a continuous, compulsive behavior of using over and over again.


Bingeing is defined as the overindulgence in some repetitive action. It includes alcohol, drugs, sex, food, gambling, or compulsive behavior of any kind.


Reaching satiation brings gratification. It is the apex where the cycle of addiction turns downward.


Withdrawal is the physical and psychological effects of stopping abusing drugs. The body commences purifying itself, which causes side effects. Detox causes the desire for relief of the resultant discomfort. These symptoms can include:

  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • sweating
  • vomiting
  • depression
  • seizures
  • hallucinations

These and other withdrawal symptoms cause the subsequent desire for relief. Without medical intervention, a person is faced with a craving to get relief. Faced with no other option, they choose self-medicating themselves by using again.


Craving is the inevitable result of experiencing withdrawal. The body and the are suffering the consequences of breaking the insidious cycle of addiction. An addict now becomes obsessed with relief that can only come from using again.

Relief Seeking Behavior

Without medical supervision, the user faces suffering the pain and discomfort of withdrawal or using the substance again. For example, when someone is prescribed opioids for pain. Faced with a no-win situation, the user seeks immediate relief from the discomfort. Therefore the user seeks out relief in whatever ways available such as drinking alcohol or using the drug of choice or another substitute, as quickly as possible.