Difference Between Habit & Addiction

It is believed that it takes just 21 days to break a habit, and many people claim that it’s the brain’s less than just a month to switch from one behavioural pattern to another. However, this is a massive claim as research found that for most people the changes in their habitability behaviour can take up to 10 weeks or 2 months to break. When we think of habits, we think of habits that benefit our everyday life whether it’d be a cup of coffee in the morning, a word puzzle to get the mind going or a healthy lunch but when do our bad habits start to become an addiction?


Habits and addictions are closely linked, and while they are very similar there are differences that set them apart. People that suffer from drug & alcohol addiction can find it takes months of hard work and dedication in order to start living a fully sober-free lifestyle but the thought of addiction will always be at the back of the mind. 


Recovery from addiction can take time and people will battle with the thoughts of addiction for the rest of their life. Removing and eliminating the substances whether it’d be drugs or alcohol may take 1-3 weeks depending on the severity of your addiction but that doesn’t mean just because you’ve detoxed the substances from your body that you are free from addiction. 


We’ve put together this article today to help you understand the differences between habits and addiction and how long it takes in order for you to recover from substance addiction. Here at AnorMed, we’ve helped people start to take back control of their life by finding them tailored rehabilitation for their addiction.

What Is Different About Habit & Addiction?

A habit usually will start with a loop that is based on a reward system in the brain, a trigger goes off inside the brain which makes it go on autopilot when we perform a certain routine. When our brain realises that we can get a certain benefit from doing the routine, we will do the action on a daily basis. An example would be waking up in the morning and starting your day by making your bed which gives you a reward of having a made bed done for when you go back to bed the night, you will continue to do the routine as you feel rewarded. The reward aspect causes us to start a habit.


It can take time to develop a habit, it can be from 18 days all the way up to 250 days depending on the individual. Many habits that people develop will benefit their life whether it’d be exercising, eating healthy food or sleep schedule but some people suffer from bad habits which become encoded in their brain, they serve an emotional or biological function. This is where addictions will start to form inside the brain.


A habit is much easier to break from than addiction, those suffering from substance addiction will want to experience the ‘feel good’ feeling and start to not be able to function daily without getting it. Many addictive substances can cause an addict to have a mental & physical response when they go out without alcohol or drugs, this is known as a withdrawal symptom.


When your brain starts to believe that the substance that you are taking is actually beneficial then the bad habit starts to become a full-blown addiction. Your brain has started to believe that your bad habit is useful to you and often your whole day will be occupied by thinking about taking or finding more of the substance. 


People suffering from addiction will often have many difficulties in their relationships with family, close friends and partners and they are at a higher risk of breaking the law or showing self-destructive behaviour. 

How Long Does It Take To Break An Addiction?

One of the most effective and successful ways that you can start to take back control of your life is through rehabilitation for your addiction. Rehabilitation is a safe place where people suffering from addiction are allowed to reset, detox your body from substances and work through your addiction. Your brain’s prefrontal cortex needs 90 days or more to start to regain proper-decision making and analytical functioning. This is why 90-day rehabilitation treatment programs have found success in help treating addiction.


The first step towards recovery from substance addiction is detoxing the body which is the process of removing and eliminating any traces of the substance from your body in order for you to heal correctly. Detox programs will usually take 1-3 weeks to be completed depending on a few factors but you can experience cravings throughout this time and even months after. The reason being is that once you have taken a certain substance over an extended period of time, you have most likely upped your dose in order to feel the same highs that you got the first time you consumed the substance meaning your body has a tolerance which ultimately always leads to a dependency where you have to consume the substance on a daily basis in order to feel ‘normal’ and function throughout the day.  


Unfortunately, there is no fixed answer for how long it takes to break an addiction and the reality is people suffering from addiction will battle the thought of addiction for the rest of their life. Recovery from addiction will take hard work, dedication and taking it day by day. Rehabilitation centres give addicts the tools through support work and therapy in order to manage their addiction such as potential triggers that have forced them to relapse in the past.


By getting treatment for your drug or alcohol addiction, you start living a more healthy lifestyle and start to take back your life. Addiction recovery is a long road to walk but you do not have to take the walk alone and there is always help through rehabilitation.

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