How Much Use Does it Take to Develop an Addiction?

How Much Use Does it Take to Develop an Addiction

Addiction is an extremely complex phenomenon that stands at the intersection of physical and mental health. Over the centuries, we’ve known very little about it and there was a prevailing notion that it was simply a failure of willpower. However, we now understand that addiction has a physiological effect that creates a genuine dependency. At the point of dependency and addiction, abstinence causes severely unpleasant symptoms and can contribute to serious medical complications without proper medical supervision.

For many people who are beginning to engage in recreational drug abuse, though, the most pressing question is how long it takes to develop an addiction. Many people start trying drugs and think that they’ll stop when they reach a line in the sand they’ve drawn for themselves. This never works out, though, as people tend to tell themselves they can quit until the moment they realize they can’t. To make matters more ambiguous, it’s simply impossible to provide a magic number for how much drug consumption will cause addiction and how much won’t.

Factors in Developing an Addiction

There are numerous factors in play when it comes to developing an addiction, and each of them impacts the point where a person begins to develop dependency. Using cocaine twenty times over the course of three months might cause one person to become addicted, while another person might develop an addiction using it twenty times in four months. Likewise, that second person could also become addicted in three months if they engage in drug abuse with greater frequency.

Duration of Use

The amount of time that a person spends engaging in regular drug abuse is a major factor in developing addiction. Low-level consumption over a span of months and years can eventually cause addiction, even if the intensity of consumption seems relatively moderate.

Intensity of Consumption

Intensity refers to the amount of the drug that a person uses at each time. Taking twenty small doses and twenty large doses in the same timeframe each pose different risks for addiction. However, there’s no formula for converting time and intensity of consumption to figure out when a person will begin to develop an addiction due to genetics.


Different people simply have different levels of susceptibility to addiction. While anyone can become addicted to drugs and anyone can live a healthy, sober life, some people develop addictions more quickly than others. According to modern evidence, genetics account for roughly half of a person’s risk for addiction.

Addiction Isn’t a Clear Line

Even if there was a formula for figuring out the rate of addiction, it wouldn’t be relevant because addiction isn’t an on/off state. Rather, people slowly begin to experience greater cravings and more constant, intrusive thoughts about drug abuse. There’s a broad range of mild to severe dependency, and the only way to avoid addiction to alcohol, prescription painkillers, or illicit drugs is to practice moderation and abstinence.

Get Help

When someone is wondering how much drug abuse it takes to become addicted, it’s usually because they’re in the early stages of using drugs. If that sounds like you, then we want to help you kick the habit now before the problem progresses further. Reach out to us today to learn about our outpatient counseling and drug detox services.

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If you have tried to stop using alcohol or drugs on your own, you may feel that sobriety and clean living seem far away. However, with the help of caring staff members and a safe, structured environment, you can receive the guidance you need to fight cravings and regain control of your life.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our admission staff or learn more about our healing programs.