The causes of addiction make it a hard thing to beat, but the first step to beating it is understand that it is a disease. From there, it’s all about figuring out why you’re dealing with the problem, and how to best tackle it in your situation.
Every individual case is different in that regard. There are tried and tested treatments, but it is not quite as simple as applying a standardized treatment onto a person without first tailoring the treatment plan to their issues. Someone struggling with heroin for two decades alongside severe depression and childhood trauma needs a different approach from an alcoholic teen sent to rehab after a fender bender.
The first step to understanding how addiction can manifest is understanding the causes of addiction. And that requires a better understanding of the difference between addiction and drug use.
Drug use is prevalent throughout the globe, but addiction is a different thing altogether. There is no drug in the world that guarantees dependence on the first hit, and while some drugs are far more addictive than others, drug use does not always end in addiction. When it does, though, there is more involved in that than simply the addictiveness of the drug. If some people can drink alcohol without ever becoming alcoholics while others struggle with alcoholism for decades, then it stands to reason that there are other factors at play.
Here are some of the most common factors in cases of substance abuse.
Genetics and Demographic Factors
Drug use is more prevalent across certain demographics, for a variety of reasons. Men and women are just as likely to get addicted, but women are more susceptible to relapses. Teens are far more susceptible to addiction, but addiction is present across nearly all ages to varying degrees. Poverty greatly affects addiction, as addiction often correlates with very high levels of stress.
Aside from the myriad of factors that help explain why some people are more emotionally susceptible to addiction, there are also genetic factors that play a role. A family with a history of drug abuse will most likely produce offspring with a higher risk towards addiction.
Emotional and Social Factors
A person’s environment plays a significant role in addiction as well. Aside from the overall stress of a specific occupation, reputation or economic standing, your relationships with people close to you can influence addiction. Living with an abusive or neglecting family, struggling to make friends or experiencing general feelings of loneliness on a regular basis all play into the causes of addiction.
If you lack a feeling of connection to anyone in your life, then addictive substances become extremely appealing to induce the feelings of happiness that usually occur in people leading normal lives. Addictive substances often also affect an addict’s mind in other ways, inducing feelings such as:
- Loss of concentration and critical thinking
While these are all consequences of addiction in the current context, some of them – particularly self-loathing and obsessiveness – are also causes of addiction. Having a certain emotional makeup can make you more susceptible to developing a dependence to drugs than others – if you’re emotionally unstable, then the mind-altering effects of certain drugs can feel appealing as a short-term solution to your mood swings.
There is a massive correlation between the causes of addiction and mental health problems, including trauma, ADHD, depression, anxiety and OCD. There are multiple reasons for this.
However, that correlation does not imply causation in any given case. It’s hard to determine how addiction and mental health affect each other, and it’s harder to determine whether one caused the other – and in which order. However, diagnosing a patient of both an addiction and a mental illness can give a better idea of the sort of treatment path they must follow to effectively combat both the addiction and the mental illness. That said, mental health can certainly still be one of the causes of addiction.
There are three scenarios proposing why addiction and mental illness are linked.
- Addiction can lead to mental illness, due to the side effects of the drug. Methamphetamine causes brain damage, and excess marijuana has shown to develop symptoms of psychosis.
- Mental illness can be one of the causes of addiction. Self-medication through addictive substances is a common way to deal with the stressors of illnesses like depression and schizophrenia.
- Both are interconnected through a more complex mechanism related to neuroscience, genetics and trauma.
Drugs Themselves As Causes Of Addiction
At the end of the day, the first culprit in the development of a drug addiction is the drug itself. The actual drugs are usually one of the main causes of addiction due to their addictive nature. Opiates like heroin and morphine, stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine, and even nicotine are all extremely addictive and hard to break away from. They leave lasting impressions in the brain, and even cause brain damage which can range from irreversible to requiring years of recovery.
However, all the other factors above don’t only account for a risk for substance abuse. They also pose a risk for other forms of addiction and maladaptive coping. We as humans sometimes seek out behavior to reduce pain, and if we’re in vast amounts of pain, then we need a strong painkiller. Some people turn to drugs, but others turn to sex, gambling, gaming, or adrenaline. Some people become abusive and take their angers and fears out on others, while others turn the anger inward and attempt suicide, or regularly perform self-harm.
Depression, abuse, loneliness – regardless of whether you’re using drugs, these are all problems that need to be addressed. Modern day therapy exists not only through professional help, but also through programs and treatments that you yourself can apply and follow. The are also sober living programs available for those that want help with the side effects of addiction. Taking care of one’s mental health is just as important as taking care of one’s physical health, and the two go together when it comes to preventing diseases and illnesses.
There’s Always Hope
Addiction is tough. There is no one who could stand to deny that it is hard to overcome an addiction. However, it is nonsense to believe that an addiction is hopeless – or that there is only one right way to treat a person struggling with their addiction. There is always hope, if someone is willing to keep working towards their goal.
Knowing why you struggle with your addiction is important to developing the right way to treat it. For some people, a template program such as the 12 steps is just right. For others, it isn’t. If the reasons for your addiction are emotionally complex, then you must treat the underlying cause as well as the addiction itself.