“What causes substance abuse and addiction?” is a question that has troubled the medical, scientific, and social systems for decades. The more we comprehend the nature of addiction, the more we acknowledge that there is no simple answer to that question. There are several contributing “risk factors,” both genetic and environmental, that can contribute to the likelihood of drug abuse and addiction. One of the most crucial findings in recent years has been the recognition of the link between drug abuse and mental health disorders.
Drug addiction is, in itself, a mental disorder. Addiction disrupts and affects the normal functioning of the brain permanently — even after the substance use has ceased. Drugs alter the brain’s normal pattern of needs and desires. When the brain’s functioning has been changed, the individual’s capacity to make decisions and reasonable choices are compromised. Some would dispute the validity of the definition of addiction as a disorder as the initial decision to use drugs is usually a free choice. But, once the drugs have modified the brain’s natural function, the resulting compulsive behavior is similar to other mental illnesses, and individuals no longer have full control over their life.
One of the most essential and complicated contributing factors in understanding the causes of drug abuse and addiction is the role of co-occurring disorders. Comorbidity, or co-occurring disorders, is a situation in which more than one disorder occurs simultaneously. Comorbidity also means that the combination of the two conditions has the potential to make any of them worse than if there were just one condition.
There is a high rate of comorbidity in individuals struggling with addiction. People addicted to drugs are nearly twice as likely to confront mood and anxiety disorders. Other co-occurring disorders may be concealed by addiction symptoms and difficult to diagnose, but if these disorders or underlying trauma are not addressed, relapse is likely to occur. The mental disorder could be what triggered the addiction initially, could be what lead to the severity of the condition, or could have evolved as a result of substance abuse. No matter how or when the disorder came to be, its untreated presence makes those struggling with addiction more vulnerable to relapse.
Due to this reason, addiction treatment must be rigorous. The treatment needs to look for root causes – not just merely treating the symptoms of addiction.
Most people are unaware of the role that mental health plays in addiction. Addiction is a psychiatric disorder — permanent changes arise in the brain when someone is addicted to a drug. But when addiction is exacerbated by other disorders — such as depression, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD, and so on — the mixture will be a formula for disaster. These disorders feed the need for drugs and the drugs, in turn, are likely to increase or exacerbate other disorders. This leads to a vicious cycle that, if not completely resolved in recovery, is likely to lead to relapse. Do not just treat the addiction’s symptoms — find the root causes.