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How Quickly Do Drugs Become Addictive

There are many misconceptions about how and why some people become addicted to drugs and others don’t. As a society, there is a prevalence to think that someone who has become addicted to drugs is inherently bad, weak, and lacking self-control; however, the actual reasons behind addiction can be more complex than simply making bad choices or being too weak to say no.

How Does Drug Addiction Start

People often start taking drugs to experiment or recreationally, which can trigger an addiction. However, before you look at why some people become addicted and some don’t, it is essential to understand how the brain works and how an addiction is formed. Drug treatment centers focus on this to address the underlying cause of the addiction to help improve the chances of sobriety.

Taking drugs affects the brain’s “reward center.” This means that dopamine floods the body when a person takes drugs, and the user feels euphoric. The brain naturally adapts to this high when you have a properly functioning reward center. Over time, your brain and your body will start to crave that initial hit leading to drug-seeking behavior and the desire to take drugs to give the brain the reward it is seeking.

So while the initial drug-taking was voluntary, repeated behavior can cause changes to the brain, leading to decreased self-control and the inability to resist the urge to take drugs.

The more a person takes drugs, the more the brain reduces the ability of the cells in the reward center to respond to the effects of the drug. This requires the user to need more and more drugs to replicate that initial feeling. This is called tolerance and causes users to continue to use drugs despite knowing the effects it has on other parts of their body and health.

What Other Factors Play a Part In Drug Addiction?

Despite all of this, the reality is that not everyone who tries drugs becomes addicted. While some can try them once and have no desire to try them again, others can take drugs sporadically without the need to consume large quantities daily or an addiction developing.

While you can not predict who will and won’t become addicted to drugs, certain lifestyle factors can increase the risk of addiction.

Gender, ethnicity, and mental disorders already present can increase the risk of becoming addicted to drugs. At the same time, your genes can also make up half the risk of whether or not you will likely become addicted to drugs.

Another factor is the age at which a person first tries drugs. The younger the user, the greater the risk of developing a substance use disorder that continues later in life. Addiction is a relapsing condition, meaning that there is always the chance of relapsing into addiction regardless of how long you have maintained sobriety. The changes in the brain during addiction can permanently affect your life and choices, and those with substance abuse disorders need to be aware of the potential to relapse at any time. 

When these changes are made in adolescents when the brain isn’t yet fully developed, it can increase the risk of addiction as areas of the brain still are not developed properly to allow teens to make the right decisions.

For this reason, drug treatment programs work to address other factors to give people the tools and skills required to keep this risk management to support recovery throughout their life.

Lastly, environmental factors also significantly influence whether or not a person is likely to develop an addiction and how fast that addiction can take hold. From peer pressure, economic status, stress, sexual and physical abuse, and general quality of life. That’s not to say people with a better quality of life or poorer quality of life will immediately make you more susceptible to an addiction problem; it can influence how you use and perceive drugs in your life.

How Quickly Do You Develop A Drug Addiction

There is no timeline for how long it takes to develop an addiction. Each addiction journey is unique, with so many different factors playing a part in the development of an addiction. 
For this reason, when looking for a drug rehab treatment, you need to look at the options available, and whether or not they can support you in the way you require. From accessing intensive outpatient programs to partial hospitalization, addressing all of the factors that played a part in your addiction will give you the best chances of success for ongoing sobriety.

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