What is the Cycle of Addiction?

Addiction doesn’t just happen overnight. In other words, a single use of a highly addictive substance does mean you have an addiction. Addiction involves a series of six stages, otherwise known as the cycle of addiction, which include initial use, abuse, tolerance, dependence, addiction, and relapse. Although the reasoning behind abusing addictive substances may vary by individual, all addicts go through the same cyclic addiction process regardless of why they initially started to abuse the substance. In this article, you’ll learn more about each of the six stages within the cycle of addiction.

Struggling with addiction? Rise in Malibu is a luxury drug rehab that helps recovering addicts overcome addiction and maintain long-term sobriety. We offer a range of different drug and alcohol treatment services so patients can receive the exact care they need to best overcome their addiction.

Contact us today to learn how we can help you along your recovery journey.

What is the Addiction Cycle?

The cycle of addiction, otherwise known as the addiction cycle, involves a series of stages that explain how an individual eventually develops an addiction to a certain substance. The addiction cycle is the process, from initial use to addiction and relapse, that an individual goes through when developing an addiction. 

Addiction does not happen overnight. In other words, a single use of an addictive substance doesn’t mean you are addicted to a particular drug. However, with persistent abuse, you will eventually become dependent upon the drug, resulting in addiction.

Cyclic addiction involves six stages: initial use, abuse, tolerance, dependence, addiction, and relapse. Keep reading to learn more about each stage of the addiction cycle. 

Initial Use

Initial use is the first stage of the addiction cycle as it is the first time an individual abuses the addictive substance. There are many reasons why an individual may initially start to abuse drugs or alcohol whether it be peer pressure, mental illness, family history of substance abuse, curiosity, and more. 


Abuse involves repeatedly using a certain substance on a more consistent basis. Rather than just a single use, abuse involves using the substance more and more, not just on occasion. Sometimes, abuse can be difficult to differentiate, especially for substances like alcohol that people can drink frequently, but still not be addicted to. However, if you notice you are using a substance to experience a certain high feeling, you are likely in the abuse stage of the addiction cycle.  


As a person abuses more and more of a substance, they will eventually develop a tolerance for the substance. A tolerance involves the frequency and amount of a substance you consume. For example, when you first start abusing a substance, your tolerance is low; however, as you abuse more and more of a substance, your tolerance will increase and you’ll need to abuse more of the substance to experience the same desired effect. 


Dependence is the next stage of the cycle of addiction that involves someone struggling to experience pleasure without abusing a particular addictive substance. Dependence also is when withdrawal symptoms start to occur. Withdrawal symptoms are negative side effects you experience when you stop abusing a substance for some time. 


Addiction is when an individual begins to come to terms with the fact that they have a substance use disorder. This is when they have specific symptoms and behaviors such as irritability, engaging in riskier behaviors, and more that are associated with addiction. 


Relapse is the final stage of the cycle of addiction. Nearly 40-60% of addicts relapse from a SUD. Relapse occurs when someone who is struggling with addiction tries to quit and ends up abusing the substance again and falling back into the same addictive cycle. Relapse is arguably the most common threat to someone trying to overcome addiction for good. 

Ready to Start Your Recovery Journey

As you can see, addiction involves a series of stages, as detailed above. It can be extremely difficult to overcome addiction all on your own. That’s why it’s critical to seek professional treatment if you are struggling with addiction. At Rise in Malibu, we offer individualized treatment plans to help each patient best overcome addiction and maintain life-long sobriety. 

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you break free of the cycle of addiction once and for all.

Understanding and Avoiding RelapseOvercoming Relapse Guilt and Moving Forward in Recovery Call Now Button