As you may now know, drug addiction is a chronic and compulsive disorder of the mind that makes the person habitually use substances in order to achieve the desired effects of the trademark high. In America, about 20 million people who were addicted to drugs and alcohol in 2013 did not receive the needed treatment for it. That being said, the number of cases of drug abuse and addiction have increased over the last few decades. But how does addiction happen? What are the Common Reasons Why Addiction Happens? Here’s what you need to know.
There are plenty of misconceptions about substance abuse and why addiction happens that people still don’t understand. Generally, people think that drug abuse and addiction is a choice or a result of criminal or deviant behaviors. However, this has created a stigma among people who are struggling with a legitimate disease that has taken control over their lives. It is the same stigma that makes it difficult for them to get the help they need. There are plenty of risk factors involved in drug addiction and why it happens, but it is actually a complex medical condition that can involve a number of environmental, biological and developmental factors like the following:
- Genes or genetics and biology of a person
- A family history of addiction
- Co-existing or co-occurring mental health conditions
- Peer pressure
- Experimenting with substances at a young age
- Prescription medication experiment or abuse
Genetics or biology
Making decisions to use drugs/alcohol or not depends on the individual and this choice related to their own responsibility. However, one of the main reasons why addiction happens to people has to do with their genetics. According to research, a person’s genetic makeup actually does contribute to how susceptible a person is to develop an addiction.
Genes have something to do with the dopamine production of a person’s brain and its response to the use of psychoactive substances like drugs and alcohol. The genetic disposition of a person can tell if they can get addicted easily or not. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse or NIDA, about 40 to 60% of people are at risk for developing an addiction if genetics was the basis. But despite that, there is a continuous research going on to find out how a person’s individual physical attributes can contribute to this risk. It may be a matter of time to find out how genes can lead one to be an addict.
A family history of addiction
Besides your genes, your family background also plays a crucial part in why addiction happens. If by chance you have a history of alcohol abuse or drug abuse in the family, then it is more likely that you will develop one too. Watching family members who are alcohol and drug abusers can subconsciously affect a person. The cycle of using and not using substances can consciously or subconsciously affect a person’s judgement to start using substances, which later leads that person to experience the same cycle as their family members.
If a child grows up in a home where a family member suffers from addiction and where this addiction is normalized by the members, it is most likely that this child will also grow up experimenting with drugs and alcohol as well. In addition to that, a child will also learn negative coping skills if they grow up with parents who turn to drugs or alcohol at times when they are stressed. This kind of behavior is later learned so when their child is under stress, they may also turn to drugs and alcohol in order to cope.
Co-existing or co-occurring mental health conditions
If a person struggles with depression or anxiety then it’s most likely that they may start using drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication, to suppress negative thoughts or to cope. This self-medication often leads to regular use of substances and misuse of prescribed medications. Once this happens, the dopamine system in the brain is compromised which can lead to the development of addiction. That is why it is important to understand if the addicted person has underlying co-occurring mental health disorder so treating these conditions can be done accordingly. Keep in mind also that these co-occurring disorders can be diagnosed or undiagnosed. Among the most common mental health disorders that could lead a person to addiction are:
- Bipolar disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD
Sometimes, developing an addiction does not start at home but rather among the peers or social circle of a person. This usually happens when their group of friends engage in regular substance use. A person might feel pressure to use substances in order to fit in whenever they are with friends. This can become a habit that may result in long-term substance abuse later on, and this abuse can later develop into an addiction. In other words, addiction can happen when the use of substances is highly encouraged by peers.
As tolerance to these substances take hold, the individual may increase the amount of drugs or alcohol they take, as well as the frequency of their usage. If this cycle goes on, the person will no longer feel good without using these substances.
Experimenting with substances at a young age
There’s a saying that “curiosity killed the cat” but in this case, curiosity developed an addiction. One of the main reasons why addiction is developed is based on the fact that addiction has more detrimental effects on a brain that is still developing compared to an adult brain. That being said, a young person who experiments with alcohol and drugs is likely to develop an addiction later on in their life.
According to studies, young adults who have experimented with substances before they reached the age of 18 are more prone to developing an addiction and will most likely have an underlying substance disorder by the time they reach 20 years old. It was also found that teenagers are at risk for using drugs at an early age because their brain is still developing. They are also more likely to make decisions based on rewards or feeling good rather than involved which is why young people will develop an addiction because of these behaviors.
Prescription medication abuse
A person who suffers from co-occurring disorders like anxiety and depression are usually given prescription medication in order to handle their symptoms. While these are helpful, someone healthy and has intentions of getting relief of their symptoms can be at risk for developing an addiction quickly.
Prescribed painkillers for chronic pain, post-surgery, and injury can be dangerous. They are highly addictive, and even a person who was seemingly unlikely to develop addiction based on the other factors may find themselves in trouble with these kinds of drugs. For this reason, being prescribed opioids is a common risk factor for developing addiction.
Hope is not lost
While there are many reasons why addiction is developed, there are also plenty of ways to cut off an addiction. Through responsible, research-based treatment within an accredited and trusted facility, breaking the addiction cycle is possible. Committing yourself to a treatment will help manage the causes of substance abuse and start your journey on the path to recovery. So seek out medical attention if you wish to stop using drugs or alcohol and live a sober life.
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