Substance abuse Causes

Drug addiction | July 28 , 2020

Causes of drug addiction and abuse

Several families in the United States have a loved one dealing with drug addiction. In fact, around 23.5 million Americans suffer from substance addiction, which is nearly equivalent to the entire population of Texas. Of those millions, only a small population of 11 percent is actively receiving treatment.
What exactly is the concept of drug addiction? The National Institute on Drug Abuse ( NIDA) sets forth this description of substance abuse and addiction: “Addiction is defined as a persistent, relapsing brain disease that is manifested by compulsive drug-seeking behaviors and use, despite its harmful consequences.” Drug addiction behaviors — such as an obsession with the drug despite harmful consequences — are not only harmful to the users but also to their families.
Innately, parents, siblings, and partners would want to know what triggers drug abuse. Many common misconceptions surround the notion of addiction, and as a result, families may believe that their loved one:

  • Has poor moral principles;
  • Lack of willpower;
  • No wish to quit

So is it a lack of moral principles, willpower, or a desire to quit that causes drug dependence? Or, could other factors be contributing to the problem? What causes drug dependence, really?
Although there is a wide variety of views on the causes of drug dependency, only some hypotheses have been tested in studies. These are the three facts related to, what we think, scientifically speaking, the cause of drug addiction:


Environmental factors play a role in the initial use of drugs. Environmental factors cover many different influences — from belief to socio-economic status, stress, abuse, and peers — and these factors work together to create unique circumstances in which a person is introduced to drug use, to try drugs, and to develop dependence.


Addiction begins to develop when the repeated use of a drug alters the way the brain feels pleasure. Drugs are chemicals that can alter the way brain cells send, receive, and process information and these physical changes in the brain may remain in effect long after the drug has left the body.


This may be the most controversial conclusion to be reached by scientists researching opioid abuse. However, studies suggest that addiction is influenced by inherited genetic traits, which may delay or accelerate the progression of addiction. Research into the influence of genes in drug addiction has shown that natural protein variations — which are formed by a person’s genes — can lead to differences in how vulnerable that person is to drug abuse or addiction. Continued analysis of genetic factors in drug addiction can offer new ways of explaining drug abuse disorder.

What Causes Drug Addiction and Abuse? The Hidden Role of Mental Health

“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.