How a Habit Becomes an Addiction

Bad habits can lead to addiction

It all starts with casual use; we’re out with coworkers one day, having a few drinks – or we’re spending time with friends and drugs become introduced. In most cases, addiction starts when a person begins using substances for recreation – but over time, recreational use intensifies until a full-blown addiction has developed. It’s hard to fathom how this process works, especially when it can happen so quickly. The human mind and body are incredibly vulnerable to drugs, however – and without warning, we can become dependent on substances whether we originally meant to or not.

The Association for Psychological Science (APS) explains that drug-seeking begins as a goal-directed behavior with an action (such as finding substances and taking them). Through this process, a “high” is developed – and that involves the euphoric feeling that is pursued from the beginning. The stimulation from drugs feels positive, and over time, subtle “cues” can reinforce the good feeling that comes from using, such as:

  • The environment of being surrounded by people who are also using and having a good time
  • The smell of burning aluminum foil used for drugs
  • The sight of powdery, white ingredients
  • And more

In 2016, Medical Daily identified the pattern of using substances and receiving positive reinforcements as well as desires to increase use as a “habit loop”; essentially, it takes 66 days for a person to develop a habit (whether that be with exercise, food, substance abuse or something else), and drugs can fast-track this process depending on the amount consumed, the type of drug, how often the drug is used and other related factors.

Habits tend to transition into addiction without a person even realizing it. It can be a slow, gradual development or a quick one – but nonetheless, if steps aren’t taken to intervene, the pattern will only continue.

Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland River in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of two 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first. For more information, call 1-800-646-9998 today.