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The Substance Abuse Cycle

To get a better understanding of why these other issues exist, it seems important that we place some focus on the whys. Why do people get themselves caught up in the substance abuse cycle? Why does the substance abuse cycle quickly transition to a drug addiction cycle? When the drug addiction cycle becomes apparent, how does addiction treatment help?


These are all important and relevant questions that demand answers. In the sections below, we want to address these questions and hopefully provide you with some insight into your own addiction.


The Substance Abuse Cycle


Before getting started, we wanted to point out that the substance abuse cycle and drug addiction cycle are two separate topics. As we will describe later, substance abuse is part of the drug abuse cycle but still has a life unto itself.


The substance abuse cycle usually starts innocently enough. Unfortunately, it starts far too often during the individual's teenage years or early adulthood.


Overcoming an addiction from substances or alcohol can be a very hard journey, and it’s important to have a trusted facility and staff by your side while you do it. Behavioral Health Centers is here to offer all our resources so you can live a happier and healthier life.

The First Step: Curiosity


There's always something that draws the eventual addiction sufferer to the substance. It might be an interesting story from a friend or the sight of seeing other people seemingly enjoying themselves on drugs or alcohol. In the beginning, there is something that spurs curiosity. That's the first step in the substance abuse cycle.


The Second Step: Experimentation


From there, the individual puts themselves in situations where experimentation is likely. They take that first pill, injection, snort, or drink and the fun begins, or so they think. From that first experience, there's a hook with euphoria on it as bait.


To be clear, not everyone enjoys that initial reaction. In many cases, an adverse reaction is enough to push the individual away. That leaves them as the fortunate souls who don't fall victim to the substance abuse cycle. Unfortunately, far too many people do fall victim.


The Third Step: Regular Use

For the experimenters who enjoy the euphoria and escapism, there's that second using episode. Soon after, they use again in search of the same euphoria they got from the first time they used. As long as the drugs available, they will continue finding time and excuses to keep using their substance of choice.


The word choice is the keyword. Why? Eventually, the choice is removed as they move into the last step of the substance abuse cycle.


The Fourth Step: Dependence


As the substance abuse picks up speed, there comes a time when the body and mind can no longer tolerate being denied the substance in question. As for the body, it's a chemical dependence that occurs in the brain's neurotransmitters. The brain adapts to functioning on the substance to the point it can't function without it.


As for the mind, there's a psychological component in the substance abuse cycle. Eventually, there comes a point when the user fears being without their substance of choice. They start using more out of habit than desire.


Somatic symptom disorder and substance abuse cycle concept image


The Drug Addiction Cycle


As we stated above, the drug addiction cycle is a separate topic, though inclusive of substance abuse. The integration of these two cycles is the point where dependence turns into an addiction. You might ask, "where is that point?" That's a fair and astute question.


The answer is the drug addiction cycle starts at the point where the user experiences withdrawal symptoms with abstinence. Generally, we are talking about the body and mind revolting when they don't get the substance they crave when they crave it. The revolting process is what the medical profession calls withdrawal.


The actual cycle of addiction is as follows:


  • The onset of Addiction Signs and Symptoms
  • Periods of Abstinence
  • The onset of withdrawal symptoms
  • Using drugs to remove withdrawal symptoms


This cycle becomes a horrible disease driven by triggers. At some point, addiction treatment from a rehab becomes the only path back to a normal life.


What Are the Triggers of Addiction?


The substance abuse cycle does not start in a vacuum. There are always reasons why the user continues using even after their behaviors lead to serious problems.


Sometimes, it's a matter of the user hiding from the problems that drive their addiction. Their problems become triggers for substance abuse as a means of escaping. In other cases, people who are suffering from mental health issues get caught up in the drug addiction cycle. They do so to cope with their mental health issues or as a result of abusing the drugs they have to take as treatment.


The Signs and Symptoms of Drug Addiction


As we indicated above, the drug addiction cycle is validated when certain signs and symptoms start appearing. In a general sense, it's difficult to describe the physical signs because they vary, depending on the user's substance of choice. With that said, there are common signs such as weight loss/gain, bad skin, dilated pupils, unkempt appearance, moodiness, bad teeth, and the list goes on.


When it comes to the symptoms of drug addiction, there is a lot more commonality among all drug users. The commonality comes in the form of certain behaviors that include:


  • Destructive personal relationships
  • Struggling with responsibilities at work or school
  • Involvement in illegal activities
  • Financial problems due to drug/alcohol purchases
  • Inability to handle basic tasks like paying bills
  • Antisocial behavior


As the signs and symptoms of substance abuse worsen over time, the need for treatment increases.


The Addiction Treatment Process


When you reach the point where you want/need help, you will soon realize you only have one option. That would be getting treatment from a reputable treatment center like ours.


The treatment process usually starts with an intake interview with a rehab facility administrator. The intake administrator's job is to gather information about your addiction details and circumstances. From there, they can decide on a course of treatment.


Once a custom treatment program is in place, the treatment process can begin. In most cases, the process will include three steps that require introspection. These include:



Going Through A Detox Program


Given the serious nature of some withdrawal symptoms, it's best that you agree to participate in a medically monitored detox program. It's the best way to ensure you will be safe and comfortable as your withdrawal symptoms attack you. How serious can withdrawal symptoms be?


Well, take note of the following withdrawal symptoms you might encounter if your drug of choice was an opioid:


  • Respiratory problems
  • Problems with blood pressure and heart rate
  • Psychosis, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts
  • Convulsions and severe muscle cramps
  • Tremors in the arms and legs
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations, nightmares that lead to sleeping problems


As you can see, you might need all the protection you can get. If a doctor is standing by with the ability to offer relief medication, you should be on board with that.


Individual therapy as treatment of anxiety and addiction


Therapy and Counseling


With a clear mind and body, you should be ready to stand up to the rigors of therapy and counseling. This is your opportunity to figure out why you feel the need to abuse substances. With guidance from your therapist, you will go through the process of self-discovery.


You will be looking for the underlying problems that are driving your addictive behavior. When you find them, you can start working on the coping skills you can use as a defense against temptation and your triggers. A good set of coping skills is your best chance of avoiding relapses.


At Behavioral Health Centers, our treatment methods will vary based on each person’s unique needs. Our programs below are a continuum of care. After inpatient treatment patients usually transition into an outpatient program and as the last step into aftercare, to ensure they stay on the track to recovery and achieve long-term sobriety.


Residential (Inpatient) Treatment


For people with more severe cases of addiction and mental illness, they are admitted into a residential treatment program. Patients live in the inpatient facility where they receive around-the-clock care, including medication management, and attending various therapy sessions (individual, group, and family therapy).


Group therapy is a wonderful tool. It teaches clients that they are not alone in their addictions. They learn that lots of other people are fighting the same issues in the same way. As a potential benefit of group therapy, you might leave rehab with new friends and great support resources for the future.


When not in therapy, you would most likely get time to participate in group activities, enjoy recreational options, and use some of the rehab facility's wonderful amenities.


Outpatient Treatment


An outpatient facility usually is for people who have less severe forms of addiction and mental illness, and who can live more independently at home and go to the treatment facility weekly for a designated amount of hours to help manage their conditions. People who began in a residential facility commonly transition into outpatient treatment afterward.


It's possible you won't be able or willing to commit to the inpatient treatment process. If your reasons for avoiding that option are compelling, the rehab administrator would likely prescribe one of three outpatient treatment options. Since they already know your circumstances, they would likely recommend the option that best aligns with the depth of your addiction.


For your edification, here are the three outpatient options with time requirements:


Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP)


People attend a Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP ) for 6 to 10 hours a day of therapy for up to 7 days a week.


Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)


People attend an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for 4 to 6 hours of therapy a day for 3 to 5 days a week


General Outpatient Program


A general outpatient program is attended for 1 to 2 hours of therapy a day and for no more than 2 days a week (maintenance therapy). However, the duration of time varies and depends on various factors, such as the severity of one’s addiction, family history, if any co-occurring disorders exist (mental illness), etc.


Behavioral Health Centers is Here to End the Cycle of Substance Abuse


If you find yourself struggling with the substance abuse cycle or the drug addiction cycle, it's time to ask for help. From our Stuart, Florida facility, we can offer you that help. Please contact us for more information.





Overcoming an addiction from substances or alcohol can be a very hard journey, and it’s important to have a trusted facility and staff by your side while you do it. Behavioral Health Centers is here to offer all our resources so you can live a happier and healthier life.

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Unity Behavioral Health, Unity Recovery Center and Behavioral Health Centers have consolidated!

Unity Behavioral Health, Unity Recovery Center and Behavioral Health Centers have consolidated treatment and alumni programs. If you or a loved one are looking for help, please contact us to receive the same excellent treatment and beautiful locations you have come to know and love.