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How Does Addiction Really Start?

How Does Addiction Really Start?

Addiction does not start the same way for every person. A typical first-time user of substances does not need drugs to feel good or cope with trauma in their past. It may be that they are at a party and they try something one time that just makes everything make sense (for awhile). Find out more about how addiction starts and how to seek help if addiction takes hold.

Feeling Empowered

It can feel like the best feeling in the world when taking drugs or using alcohol. At least for a time, it is like having a best friend hanging out everywhere you go. When the sudden burst of energy hits, or the feeling of euphoria sets in, it can feel like nothing else will ever top that feeling. When the effects wear off and you feel sluggish, sick, like you cannot see straight, or think straight. There are many symptoms that occur as a drug wears off that makes a person feel pretty bad but, even so, their brain and body can be triggered to feel empowered by the good feelings it brings early on and they forget how badly they feel afterwards.


The brain registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a drug, a reward, a sexual encounter, or food. In the brain, pleasure has a distinct signature: the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, a cluster of nerve cells lying underneath the cerebral cortex. Dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens is so tied to pleasure that neuroscientists refer to this as the brain’s pleasure center. All drugs of abuse, from nicotine to heroin, cause a powerful surge of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens.

Learning Curve

Dopamine not only contributes to the experience of pleasure, but also plays a role in learning and memory – two key elements in the transition from liking something to being addicted to it. Dopamine interacts with another neurotransmitter, glutamate, to take over the brain’s reward-related learning system. The reward circuit in the brain includes areas involved with motivation and memory as well as pleasure. Addictive substances and behaviors stimulate the same circuit-then overload it. Repeated exposure causes nerve cells to seek out the source of pleasure.

Addictions can be different for every person in how they start, when, and how they continue. Each individual needs to decide for themselves when they are tired of being stuck in addiction and are ready to face the music and get help. It can help to find the right program that will help a person deal with addiction head on, with the help of friends, family, and loved ones to stand by their side as they go head-to-head with their addiction.

Facing addiction head on can be challenging but it is necessary if you want to live a healthy life, free of drugs and alcohol. Call us if you are ready to make the first step and seek help. Whether it’s detox or something else, we will help you find what you need. Call us 24/7 at our toll-free number: 866-294-9401