The cycle of addiction for all types of drugs - heroin,
amphetamines, barbiturates, alcohol and
cannabis/marijuana is essentially the same and based
upon nature and nurture. This comprises three features
1) chemical dependency ;
2) learned behaviours and habits ;
3) denial of both need and habit.
Although there are important differences in the features
of addiction to cocaine, heroin, amphetamine or alcohol,
these features are basically differences of form and not
one of essence. Furthermore, these difference become
less relevant where people are cross-addicted to one or
One of the principal difference between so-called « hard
» and « soft » drugs,
is the speed of the addiction process. Whereas the phase
of chronic alcoholism may take 5, 10 or 20 years to
develop, total chemical dependency can be achieved
from day 1, 6 months with drugs such as heroin and
Initially, drugs are used for pleasure and relief.
However, they work on the basis of ever-increasing
investment for ever-diminishing returns.
Whatever the individual time scale, drugs result in
increased pain and less and less pleasure on a physical
and psychological level, and the addict needs ever
greater amounts of the substance to ward off the torture
of withdrawal, and achieve a level of bearable «
Modern medical evidence proves that addiction is a
to which psychological and sociological factors are
important, reinforcing factors.
Psycho-sociological factors may play a more or less
important role in starting the addiction (depending on
the individual), but, at root, we are dealing with a
physiological illness, based on chemical dependency,
acquired through "nature", i.e., genetical inheritance
predisposing the person’s body chemistry to addiction ;
and "nurture", i.e., behaviours and habits that lead to
a fundamental change in the body chemistry, which
results in dependency on the physical and psychological
level. Consequently, the body is, or
becomes, susceptible to all addictive substances.
Studies in Dublin, Ireland, have shown that heroin
addicts have a greater tendency to come from families,
where one or more parents were alcoholics. However, you
do not need to have a genetic disposition to get
addicted, this only « helps » the drug to do its work.
Furthermore, once hooked to one main addictive substance
it is frequent and easy to become dependent upon
All drug use can lead to serious brain and organ damage
and death. On the psychological level it leads to
depression, neurosis, paranoia, psychosis and suicide.
Recent scientific research shows that all drugs work on
the same neurological pathways and key areas of the
brain, especially dopamine receptors and the limbic
system. A famous breakthrough, in this respect, was
made by accident in Texas, when a specialist
physician carried out an autopsy on four dead men. The
physician, a world authority in the effects of heroin
on the brain, concluded in her report that all had died
as a result of heroin damage to the brain. To her
surprise, she was later informed by local police that
none of the deceased were heroin users, but all were
The limbic system is our most primitive response
mechanism in the brain, which works on the instantaneous
satisfaction of needs, normaly for survival -
hunger/eat, danger/attack-run. Addiction tricks it into
equating drugs with pleasure/relief, and even with
survival. Faced with the bodily agony of withdrawal the
limbic system can override higher brain functions and
demand drugs- NOW - by any means necessary !- and this
lies at the root of much the social marginalisation and
crime committed by addicts.
The most important psychological factor in the addiction
process is DENIAL.
« One/another try won’t harm me »,
« I won’t get hooked like those bums on the street »,
« look at .... he doesn’t have a problem», « I have a
habit not a problem »,
« I can kick it whenever I want to » etc.
This maintains and reinforces continued use and
The cycle of addiction can only be broken by getting
clean and remaining totally abstinent from all
mind-altering drugs. Many addicts are cross addicted
and/or use varying cocktails of other drugs to help them
withdraw from their main drug of choice. Barbiturates,
amphetamines, alcohol and marijuana, heroin and cocaine
are regularly mixed for their countering or
During the 60s and 70s many alcoholics used drugs like
valium as a substitute for
alcohol, some now use marijuana as a supposedly « safe »
drug, while not drinking. The same often holds true for
heroin and cocaine addicts.
However, it’s a fool’s solution, which sooner or later
leads back to use of the
original drug of choice. Most often this happens
because, under the influence of
the substitute drug, the addict is no longer in control
of their thoughts and actions,
and- drunk or high - they take their original drug of
However, the underlying reason for this is that an
addict’s body chemistry is addictive and, therefore,
hyper-sensitive to all addictive substances. At base,
the brain reacts in similar ways to all toxic
mind-altering substances, even if the effects of the
substance are different. Thus, the brain remains in
addictive mode, even if the original drug is not
taken. The neural associations and pathways have no
opportunity to become disabled and dormant, and instead
stay active and alert for the chance to latch back onto
the original drug.
For this reason many addicts and alcoholics, have to be
careful even when taking
prescribed medications. For example some alcoholics have
reported unpleasant side-effects and cravings following
cough mixture, some of which contain small amounts of
Others have reported a sudden rise in urges and cravings
following surgery and medications. Pain killers and
sedatives can have sometimes have very bad effects.
In other words the brain and nervous system is not able
to make the subtle
differentiation between these drugs and the addict's
drug of choice, and thus
believes it is receiving a small or similar form of the
original drug, and reacts by demanding more of the real
The underlying psychological factor in this is that,
although s/he may not be using the original drug of
choice, the addict is still, in fact, in denial.
« But I never had a problem with alcohol »,
« I don’t fix anymore, but the odd joint is o.k. »,
« I need these just for my nerves/depression ».
In fact, in the name of abstaining from the main drug,
the addict is only perpetuating the cycle of addiction
in another form, a cycle within a cycle, and is not at
breaking away to a new cycle of sobriety and recovery.
The only exception to this is where medical proof exists
of dual diagnosis, i.e., where the addict is also
suffering from mental illness which needs prescribed
medication, under the careful control of a specialist.
Since the Cycle of Addiction for drug addicts and
alcoholics is essentially the same -
all addicts must follow the Cycle of Sobriety which
1) daily acknowledgement of your addictive disorder,
2) daily acceptance of the fact that you are seriously
3) your daily Sobriety Priority, which means -
TOTAL ABSTINENCE FROM ALL MIND-ALTERING DRUGS
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