What Causes Addiction (And Are You at Risk)?
Although the causes of addiction aren’t as big of a mystery to us as they may have been in the past, there are still many things we don’t completely understand. As meticulous as the scientific community can be, studies are imperfect, and many theories require years of research and data analysis to verify. As such, there is still a lot of controversy among scientists on some of the details.
But a few things are undeniable, including the fact that there is no factor to guarantee against the causes of addiction. Regardless of race, social status, personality, or genetics, practically every human brain can be exploited through certain drugs or behavior.
However, there are distinct reasons why people get addicted. Exploring these causes of addiction and figuring out which reasons pose the most risk can give better insight into how to prevent addiction on an individual and societal level and help safeguard against drug epidemics such as the one currently striking America.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at what causes addiction.
Exploring The Risk Factors & Causes Of Addiction
Addiction is both physical and emotional/psychological, and the causes of addiction in a person can differ depending on several factors, including their genetics, their state of mind, their health, and the drug they’re taking, as well as other environmental factors such as peer pressure and stress.
While people typically get addicted for one or two major reasons, it will always be a cocktail mix of many risk factors that come together to create the perfect storm.
Ideally, no one wants to get addicted. You must be in a certain place in life to entertain the idea of struggling with months of withdrawals and relapses for a short-term high. That place in life is typically called despair.
The biggest risk factor is a traumatic or highly stressful event. Most people succumb to drug addiction after a major emotional blow, such as a death in the family, the loss of their home or job, or some other massive loss. Beyond that, other forms of stress also influence the decision to consume drugs.
Peer pressure within a certain group can lead people to take drugs to fit in or feel better in an uncomfortable situation. This is more prominent among teens because of a general lack of foresight and good decision-making skills. Teens are more impulsive and prone to reckless behavior meant to prove themselves. Most addictions begin in the teenage years.
Stress within the marriage or overall stress at work can manifest as chronic stress, constantly nagging away at someone’s psyche. Drinking or abusing prescription medication is a common coping mechanism, leading to alcoholism or an addiction to anti-anxiety meds, anti-depressants, or even pain medication if a chronic pain condition brings about stress.
Beyond these psychological risk factors are the biological ones. Genetics plays a key role in how quickly someone can get addicted. Some people are more prone to the effects of certain substances than others. Some are even born with a near-immunity to certain drugs – it’s possible to be born with an immunity to opioids, for example, or high resistance to alcohol. Due to genetics, the risk of certain causes of addiction is also increased when several family members are addicted to the same thing, as it typically points to a genetic predisposition.
At the end of the day, these are risk factors. They speak towards a certain increased risk of struggling with addiction and are not guaranteed causes of addiction. Addiction happens when it happens. For some, it may be because of a death in the family – for others, it may just have been recklessness in their youth. But by keeping these factors in mind, we can better educate our kids on how to avoid drugs, and we can generally argue that addiction among the population will go down by cutting down on drug availability, stress, and economic hardship (a bit of a no-brainer).
Explaining Withdrawal And Tolerance
While risk factors help explain the causes of addiction and why someone gets addicted, they don’t explain how. Addiction develops over time – it’s impossible to be addicted after the first hit.
That doesn’t mean you should go out there and try a drug “just once” – while you can’t get addicted off one hit, you are more likely to use addictive drugs like cocaine, nicotine, and heroin again after the first hit.
It is with time that the body becomes used to the effects of a drug – and it builds a tolerance to it. As this tolerance builds, stopping your drug use abruptly may lead to painful withdrawal symptoms (which can sometimes even be fatal). Addiction, withdrawal, and tolerance don’t have a clear causal relationship, but they are typically linked. The order and timing in which they occur usually differ from person to person.
Behavioral Addictions Are Still Addiction
We’ve been discussing substance abuse for the most part – if you use a certain drug long enough, addiction will develop from a mixture of physical and psychological factors. But behavioral addiction is real, too. People can be addicted to porn, sex, gambling, video games, or stealing – and they’ll ruin their lives in pursuit of these things, feeling unbelievably compelled and incapable of stopping themselves.
They can, with help and treatment. But these addictions are every bit as real as an addiction to cocaine or heroin – and they can cause just as much damage. And according to science, they share a lot of similarities.
As mentioned, an addiction can develop for several reasons. Figuring out the causes of addiction can help you establish a better sober life after Los Angeles IOP treatment without the temptations of your old habits.
- Psychiatric Times. Almost Anyone Can Become an Addict. Psychiatric Times. Published August 3, 2011. Accessed October 14, 2022. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/almost-anyone-can-become-addict
- Mayo Clinic. Drug addiction (substance use disorder) – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. Published October 4, 2022. Accessed October 14, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/symptoms-causes/syc-20365112
- Whitworth M. Can You Really Become Addicted to a Drug After Just One Hit? Vice. Published October 23, 2015. Accessed October 14, 2022. https://www.vice.com/en/article/exqm9j/reasons-why-you-cant-get-addicted-to-drugs-after-one-hit
- Grant JE, Potenza MN, Weinstein A, Gorelick DA. Introduction to Behavioral Addictions. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2010;36(5):233-241. doi:10.3109/00952990.2010.491884
Last medically reviewed October 14, 2022