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How Do Addictions Develop?

Addiction is a disease. It can be nearly impossible to overcome addiction alone, as regular use of drugs or alcohol actually causes changes in the brain. Addiction can cause damage to an individual’s physical health, mental well-being, relationships, and finances. 

If addiction is so harmful, why does anyone get sucked into the cycle of substance abuse? No one sets out hoping to develop an addiction. However, in the United States, tens of millions of people struggle with substance use disorders of some kind. Learn more about how addiction develops and how to find help today.

How the Cycle of Addiction Begins

How does addiction develop? First, it’s important to understand a little bit about brain chemistry. When we do something that makes us feel good, the brain releases dopamine. Dopamine is released when we hug someone we love, ride a rollercoaster, eat ice cream, or do any number of pleasurable activities. Even after the dopamine is reabsorbed, our brains remember that these activities bring us pleasure and seek them out.

However, many drugs cause the brain to release more dopamine than normal. And because drugs can block the reabsorption of dopamine, this rush of pleasure lasts far longer than normal. Our brains want to return to that good feeling, so drugs become a priority. Eventually, the brain develops a dependence on the substance in order to feel normal. When an individual tries to stop using the drug or drinking alcohol, they might begin to feel painful or uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

For many individuals, addiction begins when a doctor prescribes pain relievers or other prescription medications. These might help the individual feel better in the short term, but can be incredibly addictive. In the same way, some substances can help relieve the symptoms of mental health issues like anxiety or depression, but turn out to be addictive.

Developing a Substance Use Disorder

Addiction can affect anyone, regardless of their age, gender, race, or income level. However, some people are at higher risk than others to develop a substance use disorder. For example, individuals who struggle with mental health issues are far more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol. And, in turn, substance abuse can exacerbate their mental health issues, creating a harmful cycle.

Other risk factors for developing an addiction include:

  • Genetic makeup
  • A family history of addiction
  • Stressful home environment
  • High-pressure jobs or academic programs
  • Peer pressure from friends
  • Access to drugs or alcohol

If you are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, know that there is help. After admitting that you have a problem, the next step is finding an addiction treatment center.

Find Help for Addiction

How can you know if you need help with an addiction to drugs or alcohol? Consider the following questions:

  • Do you find yourself hiding drug or alcohol use from friends and family?
  • Is a significant amount of your time spent finding, using, and recovering from the effects of drugs or alcohol?
  • Have you engaged in risky behavior while under the influence?
  • Do you find that you need more of the substance to feel the same effects?
  • Has substance abuse impacted your employment, finances, or relationships?
  • Do you crave drugs or alcohol when you are not using them?

If you can answer “yes” to any of the above, find an addiction treatment center near you. Many centers offer detox, inpatient treatment, and outpatient treatment options.

At WeRecover, we help individuals who are ready to break free from addiction find the right addiction treatment center for their needs. Whatever your needs for treatment, we can help you access high-quality care. The centers we partner with provide a variety of treatment programs and therapies and will create an individualized treatment plan for you. Reach out to WeRecover to begin your recovery journey today.

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