What Causes Addiction?

What Causes Addiction?

Addictive substances change the way the brain perceives pain and causes feelings of euphoria

Addiction is a chronic brain disease marked by a dependence upon a legal or illegal substance in spite of the negative consequences of that substance abuse. Addiction is caused by a variety of factors: a family or personal history of substance abuse can increase the risk of addiction, as well as genetics and environment. Although the causes of addiction are not the same in every person who struggles with substance abuse, there are some similarities when it comes to the behaviors and lifestyles of those who abuse drugs. If you understand the causes of addiction, then you can recognize a substance abuse problem in yourself or a loved one, and then you can seek professional help to get and stay clean.

Addiction Basics

Although people with a personal and/or family history of drug abuse are at greater risk for addiction, this disease can happen to anyone. Addictive substances, like certain drugs and alcohol, change the way the brain perceives pain and causes feelings of euphoria in those that abuse drugs. The brain becomes addicted to these feelings, but it needs more of the substance to feel and function at “normal” levels.

Many people make the mistake of thinking that addiction only happens to people who use illegal street drugs. However, addiction to prescription pain killers and amphetamines is one of the biggest drug problems in the US. Opiates like oxycodone change the way the brain perceives pain, and it eventually takes over the job of the brain to regulate pain properly. This issue results in a physical addiction to the drug, because the brain relies on the drug for the chemicals it normally produces to function. Street drugs like heroin and cocaine also change the way the body perceives pain and produces feelings of euphoria. In fact, these feelings of euphoria are so strong that the addict needs more of the substance to achieve the same level of experience. This issue results in dangerous, drug-seeking behaviors, so, if you suspect your loved one has a problem with drugs or alcohol, then look for the following symptoms:

  • Becoming preoccupied with getting and using the drug
  • Needing a supply of the drug on hand at all times
  • “Doctor shopping” to get new prescriptions for the drug
  • Engaging in dangerous activities, such as driving, while under the influence of the drug
  • Participating in illegal activities, such as stealing, to get and use the drug
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Changes in behavior and becoming more involved in the drug culture
  • Changes in physical appearance, especially in the area of personal hygiene
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Angry outbursts
  • Significant weight loss and changes in eating habits

If you or a loved one has any of these symptoms of addiction, then it is time to get help.

Addiction Causes

Addiction can be caused by a variety of factors. One of the most common is a family or personal history of substance abuse. A family history of addiction indicates a genetic predisposition to the disease. This family history increases a person’s risk of addiction and makes her more vulnerable when engaging in social drinking or recreational drug use. If you know your risk and the steps you must take to protect yourself, then you can prevent an addiction from forming in the first place.

When it comes to developing addiction, mental illness is also a strong risk factor. It is often difficult to determine whether a mental illness has caused an addiction or if the addiction has uncovered an untreated mental illness. However, even though you or your loved one may not struggle with a mental illness, a family history of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and/or schizophrenia can greatly increase your risk for developing an addiction. Getting a Dual Diagnosis for both addiction and mental illness can help therapists and physicians develop a treatment program that addresses both issues at the same time. If you treat one issue and not the other, it greatly increases the risk of relapse down the road.

Along with family history and mental illness, the environment in which someone lives can contribute to the development of addiction. This fact is especially true for adolescents and young adults: statistics show that, the earlier a child has his first experience with drugs or alcohol, the more likely he is to develop addiction as a young adult. In fact, people who were exposed to drugs and alcohol in utero, and those who live in poverty, have increased risks for developing drug and alcohol addiction in the future. In short, many issues contribute to addiction, so seek professional help to determine what caused your condition so that you can get and stay clean from this deadly disease.

Find Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

If you know as much as you can about addiction, then you can prevent yourself and your loved ones from developing a problem at any age or stage of life. However, if you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, then know that we are here for you. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.