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Have You Ever Asked: “What Causes Addiction?”

If you or your loved one have a problem with drugs or alcohol, you’re not alone. Have you ever wondered: “What causes addiction?

In fact, addiction is one of the most common physical and mental health problems in the United States.

As it turns out, there are several known reasons for addiction. These underlying causes don’t work on their own.

Instead, they work together to trigger substance problems for any given person.

Common causes include biological factors, environmental factors, and personal factors.

What Causes Addiction and What Is It?

Before going any further, it helps to give a clear definition of addiction. At its core, addiction is a serious substance problem that robs you of the ability to control your drug or alcohol use.

This uncontrolled use damages your mental and physical health. It also damages important areas of your day-to-day life.

Today, experts define addiction as a form of chronic brain disease. Chronic diseases are not short-term. Instead, they continue to cause problems over time.

There are several long-term problems in people addicted to drugs or alcohol.

The long-term problems include:

  • Loss of the ability to control your substance intake
  • Social problems caused by your pattern of drug or alcohol use
  • Increasing tolerance to the effects of drugs or alcohol
  • The appearance of withdrawal symptoms if your substance use stops
  • A pattern of drinking or taking drugs in risky situations

Together, these problems can seriously damage your ability to lead a productive life.

Addiction produces overlapping symptoms of physical dependence and psychological dependence. When you’re physically dependent, your brain has come to expect a certain amount of drugs or alcohol.

If you take less than that amount, you can develop physical symptoms of substance withdrawal.

When you have a psychological dependence, your thoughts and emotions center on drinking or using drugs. If you stop your substance use, you can experience anxiety or other unpleasant emotional states.

Doctors view addiction as one form of a condition called substance use disorder. This condition also includes damaging substance abuse that does not involve addiction.

Millions of Americans suffer from substance use disorder. Many people develop a problem as a result of using illegal drugs. However, many others develop problems after using prescription drugs.

Alcohol is also a common source of substance addiction and abuse, leading to the need for alcohol rehab.

What Causes Addiction?

Biological Causes

There are two main biological causes of addiction. The first of these causes is genetics. Simply put, addiction may run in your family. If that’s true, you have a higher chance of developing problems even if you don’t use heavy amounts of drugs or alcohol.

The second biological cause of addiction is a lasting, harmful change in your normal brain chemistry. This change is the result of how addictive substances affect your system.

When you take drugs or alcohol, you activate locations in your system called dopamine receptors. In turn, these receptors make your brain release the chemical dopamine. Among other things, dopamine produces a pleasant sensation in your brain and body.

When levels of the chemical rise, you tend to feel good. That helps explain why many people start drinking alcohol or taking drugs.

Unfortunately, if you keep taking an addictive substance, your brain may come to rely on the dopamine boost that substance produces. If this occurs, you will develop physical dependence.

In combination with other factors, this dependence can lead to outright addiction. With all this in mind, you may wonder what chemical makes drugs addictive. You may also wonder what chemical makes alcohol addictive. However, this is not the key point. Instead, the problem is how drugs and alcohol change your normal brain chemistry.

Additional Biological Factors

Other biological factors can also boost your chances for developing substance addiction. One big factor is age. If your brain hasn’t completed its development, drug or alcohol use has a more damaging impact.

For this reason, teens involved in substance use increase their addiction risks, both now and in later life. Your racial/ethnic background and your gender can also make addiction more likely.

What Causes Addiction?

Environmental Factors

The environment you grow up in can have a major impact on your odds of experiencing substance problems. The National Institute on Drugs Abuse (NIDA) notes that one big influence in this area is your home and family life. That’s especially true during your early years.

Specific risk factors in your home environment may include:

  • Having parents with serious substance problems
  • Having other close relatives with serious substance problems
  • Being exposed to sexual abuse
  • Being exposed to physical abuse
  • Lack of a stable daily routine
  • Having parents or other close relatives involved in criminal activity

Your social environment outside of the home can also influence your risks.

Issues in this area that make addiction more likely include:

  • A lack of solid social skills
  • Having friends who use drugs or alcohol
  • Having problems in school

Social factors can encourage addiction in anyone. However, the danger is highest in teenagers. That’s true, in part, because teens are very susceptible to the influence of their peers. In addition, teens lack the brain development needed to reliably make good decisions.

Individual Factors

Mental Illness

A range of individual factors can also contribute to substance addiction. One common issue is poor mental health. On its own, substance abuse disorder qualifies as a mental illness.

Unfortunately, the disorder often occurs together with other problems, including depression and bipolar disorder. (Doctors refer to this mixture of conditions as co-occurring disorders or dual diagnosis.) Mental illness and substance problems are related for a couple of reasons.

First, the risk factors for addiction are similar to those for mental illness. That includes your genetic background. It also includes a number of environmental factors.

In addition, the presence of mental health problems can directly increase your odds for substance problems. (The connection also works the other way. In other words, substance problems can increase your risks for mental illness.)

Method of Substance

Use Your method of substance use can also play a role. NIDA reports that your chances foraddiction rise if you take drugs by injection. They also rise if you smoke a drug. There are two reasons for this.

A smoked or injected substance will rapidly reach your brain. Once there, it can produce an intense increase in dopamine. At the same time, the pleasure triggered by this increase may not last for long. This produces a one-two punch. Since the “high” you feel is intense, you may be encouraged to seek the effect again.

Since the “high” doesn’t last, you may end up using the drug more often. Together, these factors can speed up the process of addiction. Classic examples of this scenario include smoking “crack” cocaine and injecting heroin.

Personal Experiences in Adulthood

Finally, life experience during adulthood can make substance addiction more likely. For example, you may have friends who drink heavily or take drugs. You may also spend a lot of time in bars, clubs or other places where substance use occurs.

In addition, you may experience serious personal stress or traumatic events. Stress and trauma exposure are known risk factors for both substance problems and mental illness.

From Understanding Addiction to Addiction Treatment

How does a person get addicted to drugs? How does a person get addicted to alcohol? The answer to both these questions is the same.

For any given person, several factors combine to trigger addiction and non-addicted substance abuse. It’s important to learn the facts about drug use, alcohol use and what causes addiction. However, to recover from addiction, you or your loved one must go beyond understanding what causes people to use drugs or alcohol.

You must take action. No matter what form of addiction you’re dealing with, effective treatment programs are available.

These programs can provide the help you need to stop your drug or alcohol intake. They can also help you stay sober in the years to come.

For more information on the next steps to take, just contact us at at (855) 458-0050 or click here to begin your addiction treatment insurance verification.

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