Most of us have our vices, whether cigarettes or coffee, but how do you know when your habit has become a full-on addiction? According to research, there is a fine line between the two based on factors such as time spent engaging in the behavior, chemical reactions in the brain, and whether or not you experience withdrawal symptoms.

Every habit, from exercising to eating a specific type of food, begins with something known as the “habit loop.” This starts with a certain trigger which leads to the habit, which then inevitably causes a reward sensation in the brain. According to Journey Pure River, the average time it takes for a habit to stick and become part of your routine is 66 days, but not all habits lead to addiction. Some habits, such as having a drink after work, can actually rewire the brain and make the activity feel less enjoyable. As a result, we need more of it to receive the same pleasurable sensation. This is why you may have noticed that your small glass of wine has gradually turned into a large glass.

Addiction, however, occurs when you are no longer able to function properly without the pleasurable activity or substance. Unfortunately, many addicts will continue to indulge in their addiction even when it causes physical, social, or financial burdens in their lives. According to the Partnership For Drug-Free kids, about 23.5 million Americans, or one in every 10 individuals, are addicted to alcohol and drugs.

If you feel that your favorite habit has become an addiction, there is hope; research has suggested that it takes 21 days to break a habit. Depending on the reasons it became a habit in the first place, the neuropeptide connections in the brain that reinforce the “habit” can take longer to break. For stronger addictions, such as drug addictions, patients may need to identify any underlying causes first, and then rehabilitation may help to rewire the brain and break the addiction.

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