How long does it take to become an addict?


What is an addict?

An addict is a person who continuously partakes in a negative activity despite its destructive consequences of their choices. They cannot see past the immediate gratification of their addiction and will do anything to achieve it. This complex disease takes control over its victims both physically and mentally. The moment a person becomes an addict has yet to be discovered but research has been able to zero in on how addictions are formed.

How does someone get addicted?

When someone abuses drugs for the first time they typically experience an intense and unnatural surge of pleasure. This then activates the neurotransmitters or reward system within the brain quickly sending a rush of dopamine also known as the chemical responsible for providing pleasure.

Every person has very different genetics and environments that play a vital role in the way drugs can affects them and how quick they will become addicted. As a result of abusing drugs the brain begins to change the way the neurotransmitters create dopamine. With the sudden increase in dopamine levels neurons begin to reduce the number of natural dopamine receptors within the brain.

By making less dopamine the brain begins what scientists call “down regulation”. This leaves abusers feeling lifeless, hopeless and depressed which are often noted to be signs of drug withdrawal. To counter this drug abusers will begin to use drugs more frequently to bring their dopamine levels to normal. They will also begin increasing their dosages to experience that flood of pleasure or “high.” This effect is called tolerance.

The addiction cycle

Some users enter the cycle of addiction on their first use while others begin their path of addiction after continuous abuse. These factors can only be determined by an addict’s genes and environment. We may not know the exact time when addiction begins or even exactly who are more vulnerable but, we do know that when abusing drugs everyone runs the risk of becoming an addict.

Source: NIDA