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Pre-addiction takes place prior to addiction, and identifying it is an opportunity to prevent addiction from happening. In order to do this for yourself or someone else, you need to know what the signs and symptoms of pre-addiction are, as well as other contributing factors. Here, those factors, signs, and symptoms will be explored. 

Substance use alone does not always lead to addiction. Other factors tend to come into play. Those can include home life, work, stress, and genetics. Being raised in a stable, healthy home is much different than being raised in a home that experiences violence or financial instability. One environment is more conducive to developing confidence and a strong sense of self. The latter environment can encourage lowered confidence, a characteristic that has its own role to play when it comes to addictive behaviors and substance use disorders (SUDs).

What Is Pre-Addiction?

Pre-addiction is a set of factors that makes a person more likely to engage in addictive behaviors and develop SUD. It is thought that preventive care offered during the time of pre-addiction can help you avoid the often serious consequences of addiction. This idea is modeled off other preventive care currently offered in standard medical settings, such as counseling for those who are more at risk for chronic diseases like diabetes.

What Factors Contribute to Pre-Addiction?

The factors contributing to pre-addiction are varied. As with addiction, they can include mental health disorders, chronic pain, and the desire to avoid or escape difficult feelings or physical sensations. Drugs offer an escape from undesired experiences. Unfortunately, the danger of avoiding the problem still exists when the drugs wear off. Repeat attempts to escape through drug use lead to addiction.

Looking at that more closely, Advances in Psychosomatic Medicine states that addiction happens when the brain’s reward circuit is repeatedly stimulated by substance use, causing a euphoric feeling. Over time, it takes more of the substance to gain the same effect. The brain and body become dependent on the substance. Stopping use results in unpleasant and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. 

Additionally, it takes time to recover from addiction. For many, the process can last years or the rest of their lives. Knowing the signs of pre-addiction is a great way to determine whether you are at risk for addiction and to prevent addiction’s harmful effects by avoiding it altogether.

What Are the Signs of Pre-Addiction?

Pre-addiction is characterized by the factors leading up to addictive behaviors. It is a stage set by circumstance. Recognizing and stopping pre-addictive behaviors such as risk-taking through substance use and experimentation can circumvent addiction. Those factors include both psychological and physical signs.

Psychological Signs of Pre-Addiction

Psychological warning signs of pre-addiction may surface as behavioral changes. Consider the following:

  • Withdrawing socially and becoming secretive, even from family and close friends
  • Trying to forget or avoid problems through substance use
  • Disinterest in activities that used to be important
  • A decline in grades or spike in absences from school
  • Surrounding yourself with others who use drugs
  • Anger, anxiety, depression, or mood swings

Physical Signs of Pre-Addiction

The physical warning signs of pre-addiction in a loved one may include:

  • Changes in sleep or weight
  • Finding you need to take more of a substance to achieve the same effect

Said another way, if you find that nearly every aspect of your life is surrounded by substance use and that the driving force of each day is to get to the next opportunity to use them again, you are at risk for addiction. 

What to Do if You Are at Risk for Pre-Addiction

If you are at risk of pre-addiction, the best first step is to reach out to a medical health professional to let them know about your concerns. A physician will consider your health history and concerns and will advise you accordingly. 

Counseling or therapy will likely be recommended. If so, you can expect to work with your therapist to uncover what is driving you toward substance use. Together, you can develop a safety plan you can turn to when you have the desire to rely on substances to cope. Your safety plan will help you keep track of different techniques for calming yourself and a list of people you trust that you can reach out to if you need help getting through tough moments.

Depending on what substances have been used, it’s possible that medication may be prescribed to help you discontinue use. Some substances are much more addictive than others, so medications are sometimes utilized to mitigate withdrawal symptoms and limit cravings. Take any medications as prescribed for the best outcome.

With professional help, you will find ways to overcome the temptation of escape through substance use. Expect this process to take time, and be patient with it and yourself. By addressing pre-addiction, you are setting healthy boundaries for your body and mind, both internally and with others. Prioritizing your well-being is something to be celebrated. 

Pre-addiction is a set of factors that increase the risk of addiction. These factors include mental health conditions as well as physical and psychological signs and behaviors. Recognizing that you or someone you love is exhibiting symptoms of pre-addiction allows you to take action to prevent addiction and its serious consequences. If you suspect you or someone you love may be on the path to addiction but aren’t certain, seeking help from a medical health professional is your best option. West Coast Recovery Centers (WCRC) is staffed with specialists who are ready to support you in developing a plan to counteract pre-addiction. Learn more by calling us at (760) 492-6509 today.