How Does Drug Addiction Start?

How Does Drug Addiction Start?

If you or a loved one partakes in drug use, you might be wondering: how does drug addiction start? With over 23 million, or 10%, of United States adults struggling with a drug use disorder at some point in their lives1, it is clear that what starts as innocent experimentation with drugs or alcohol can easily turn into a full-blown addiction.

Read on to learn more about what leads users to start down this path.

Factors Determining How Drug Addiction Starts

Drug addiction, or substance use disorder, is a mental health condition in which individuals have a psychological or physical dependence on opioids, marijuana, alcohol, or other substances. Individuals with drug addiction cannot control the amount or frequency of drug use, often leading to severe consequences for their health, relationships, and wellbeing.

While this disorder can begin for just about anyone, some of the leading risk factors that increase the likelihood of starting a drug addiction include:

  • Genetics: If an individual has a history of addiction in their family, it often plays a role in developing an addiction. This is because scientists found that one’s genes and gene expression can increase the likelihood of addiction by 40 to 60%.2
  • Co-occurring Mental Health Conditions: Using drugs and alcohol to cope with other mental health conditions commonly leads people to abuse drugs. In fact, around one in four people dealing with a severe mental illness also have a substance use disorder.3
  • Environmental Influences: There are a variety of environmental influences that motivate someone to use and abuse drugs. This commonly includes unstable family life, significant peer pressure to party and try substances, and traumatic or stressful experiences.

The Slippery Slope Of Drug Addiction

An addiction to drugs and alcohol doesn’t happen overnight. Most substance users have no intentions of becoming addicted and instead fall slowly and steadily down the dangerous path of drug dependence. For these reasons, it is crucial to be mindful of the four steps of addiction to seek help before the problem gets out of hand.

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#1: Experimentation

In the experimentation phase, users are exposed to a drug for the very first time. In this phase, they might try the drug out of curiosity, peer pressure, to have fun, or as a means of escaping from life’s problems.

#2: Regular/Social Use

During the regular use phase, an individual uses drugs regularly, perhaps both in social settings and alone. Individuals might start developing a tolerance for the drug but they aren’t fully out of control or dependent. 

#3: Risky/Problem Use

Phase three occurs when users experience severe consequences for their habit and partake in risky behavior while high. This phase might encompass relationship troubles, financial problems, drunk driving, and unprotected sex.

#4: Dependence/Addiction

In this final stage, individuals are fully addicted to a drug and cannot control their usage of it. The physical dependence on the drug also takes hold, where painful withdrawal symptoms will occur when the person stops using.

The Importance Of Professional Support For A Drug Addiction

No matter what phase of addiction you’re in, it is vital to seek professional support as soon as possible. Working with professionals offers users the best shot at safely combating drug addiction.

Addiction specialists and drug rehab programs grant substance users access to new tools, strategies, and support systems that help them fight their urge to use drugs and alcohol. With these healthy coping mechanisms, people are set up for a life of long-term sobriety and well-being.

Start A Path To Recovery With Clear Life Recovery Today

Don’t wait for your relationships, finances, and health to go downhill before receiving the help you deserve for drug addiction. Offering holistic therapy, detox services, and other treatments, Clear Life Recovery helps hundreds of clients recover from addiction.

To learn more about our full-service addiction rehabilitation center, contact us online or give us a call today.


About Benjamin Hogan

Over the years, Benjamin has held positions in many different areas of alcohol and drug addiction services all over the country. He made a name for himself as an interventionist and has held certification as a Certified National Drug and Alcohol Interventionist (CNDAI-II). Benjamin specializes in helping support families of people struggling with addiction by focusing on education and instilling healthy boundaries to ensure lasting changes. Addiction is a progressive disease, but using an evidence-based approach, an intervention, when done correctly, can help to increase the willingness of a loved one to seek sobriety faster.

"In my experience, by helping families make necessary changes, they not only get their lives back, but they also help change the mind of their loved one more quickly. In an intervention, family and other loved ones take a proactive approach, instead of waiting and being stuck between fear and (false) hope. I realized in my own recovery, that when my family changed, I had to change in response. That is where I found sobriety. This is why I believe in what I do!"