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The Psychological Addiction Cycle

by Nick

Addiction is a complex disease with both physical and psychological characteristics. The physical symptoms of withdrawal make it difficult to quit, but that’s not the whole picture. There are also psychological components that encourage a person with an opioid use disorder to continue using, leading them into a powerful psychological addiction cycle with eight distinct stages.

What Are the Eight Stages of the Psychological Addiction Cycle?

The psychological addiction cycle includes different thought patterns and feelings, from the initial temptation to losing control to promising to quit and back to fantasizing about the substance. This cycle occurs alongside changes in a person’s brain chemistry, making it more difficult to stop using. A person addicted to opioids may rotate through this cycle a number of times each day, or they could move through each phase at a slower pace.

The psychological cycle of addiction includes these eight stages:

1. Frustration

Most people believe, at least at first, that misusing opioids will bring them relief. They may struggle with ongoing negative thoughts and feelings such as anxiety, fear, sadness or depression and feel unable to cope on their own. Opioids and other substances can create a feeling of euphoria and seem like a solution to lessen or remove their internal frustrations.

2. Fantasizing

At this stage, a person has not yet used the substance. They begin to fantasize about how using opioids will make them feel and the relief it will bring. They may even start to think about how they could get a prescription or where to obtain illicit opioids.

3. Obsessing

Obsession is uncontrollable thinking about opioids or other substances. A person may believe their life will be better if they used this substance. Once a person starts obsessively dwelling on the idea of using opioids, they may begin to make concrete plans about when and how.

4. Begin Opioid Use

When their thoughts and feelings become too much, people believe that using an illicit substance will bring them the relief they are searching for.

5. Loss of Control

Because of the addictive nature of opioid use disorder, many people lose control over their behavior. At this point, they are unable to regulate how much or how often they use.

6. Consequences

Addiction impacts every aspect of a person’s life, from their personal relationships to their work and finances. For some, this leads to broken relationships, legal problems, termination from work and other personal and professional difficulties. These consequences often cause feelings of remorse, guilt or shame.

7. Discontinue Opioid Use

When a person hits rock bottom, it’s not uncommon for them to quit cold turkey. They may make promises to themselves and their loved ones and resolve to never come under the influence of this substance again.

8. Time Passes

The physical and psychological draw of addiction is often too much. After some time passes, the initial pain returns, and the person begins to experience the same frustrations and fantasies that began their initial use.

Get Help to Break the Addiction Cycle

Outside help from addiction professionals is crucial in order to break the psychological addiction cycle. At Health Care Resource Centers, we specialize in helping patients with opioid use disorder through medication-assisted treatment and compassionate counseling. To learn more, contact HCRC online or give us a call at 866.758.7769.

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