causes of substance abuse

Experiencing addiction can be confusing because it’s often hard to pinpoint where the issue started. For many individuals living with substance use disorders, they struggle to understand the causes of addiction that led them to where they are. But with some self-reflection and access to addiction resources, the causes of addiction are surprisingly easy to understand.

Whether you’re looking for the source of your addiction or trying to protect yourself from developing a substance use disorder, this examination of the causes of substance abuse will be an invaluable resource in understanding drug and alcohol addiction.

Defining Drug and Alcohol Addiction

drug and alcohol addiction

Not many people realize this, but there are many different types of unhealthy relationships with drugs and alcohol, and not all of them are identical to addiction. So before we delve into the causes of addiction, it’s important to establish a clear alcohol and drug addiction definition.

Put simply, addiction can be described as a physical, mental, and emotional dependence on drugs or alcohol. But what many people don’t realize is that there is not a line between “non-addicted” and “addicted.” Rather, the process of becoming addicted is gradual, and it typically starts with substance abuse.

Substance abuse is any use of drugs or alcohol that is unhealthy. This could mean binge drinking, using drugs to address feelings of stress or sadness, or any other activity that centers around taking an addictive substance in large quantities or for unhealthy reasons. For example, having a beer with a friend is probably not an example of unhealthy drinking for most people. But going out drinking with friends to deal with stress is a sign of unhealthy drinking, and it often snowballs into something worse.

Over time, substance abuse leads to a physical, mental, and emotional dependence on the substance. Common characteristics of addiction include experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you do not take the substance, feeling emotionally unwell without drugs or alcohol, or not being able to think clearly without chemical assistance. In this way, substance abuse progresses to drug and alcohol addiction by making an individual dependent on the addictive substance.

Now that we have a clear definition of drug and alcohol addiction, let’s delve into the causes of addiction.


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causes of addiction

Causes of Addiction

As we have established, substance use disorders rarely develop instantaneously. More often, they develop over time with repeated substance abuse. But what leads to that initial substance abuse?

For a lot of people, an underlying mental health condition leads them to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. But as their dependence on drugs and alcohol develops, their mental health usually gets worse, since they are not addressing the issues that are making them unhappy. In this way, substance use disorders and mental health conditions are commonly referred to as co-occurring disorders, since they often contribute to each other and worsen symptoms. This is one of the most common causes of addiction, and it requires alcohol and drug addiction treatment that simultaneously and comprehensively addresses both addiction and mental health concerns.

Of course, there are plenty of other causes of addiction that can happen alongside or instead of co-occurring disorders.

For example, addiction tends to run in families. While it’s not clear how this trait is passed on, there is a link between between a person’s genetics and their risk of developing addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This does not mean that anyone can be guaranteed to develop addiction, but certain people with family histories of addiction do face a predisposition to addiction.

Other causes of addiction include:

  • Traumatic Events: In the same way that co-occurring mental health issues can lead to addiction, experiencing trauma can lead people to rely on drugs and alcohol to cope.
  • Chronic Pain: For many people living with chronic pain, addictive pain medications are part of their treatment plan. While this is not always a bad thing, in some cases, individuals can become overly reliant on painkillers, which can eventually develop into a substance use disorder.
  • Chronic StressStress is just a fact of life. But in cases where stress feels overwhelming and never seems to go away, individuals may face increased risk of developing a substance use disorder, particularly if they try to reduce stress by using drugs and alcohol.

Now that we’ve looked at some of the most common causes of addiction, there’s only one thing left to consider. How are you going to get help?

Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment

Regardless of the cause of addiction, substance use disorders require professional treatment. And at Georgetown Behavioral Hospital, we provide care that is custom-tailored to the causes of your addiction and your own personal history.

Our dual diagnosis program was specially designed by mental health and addiction experts to treat co-occurring disorders. By addressing these issues in a holistic and comprehensive way, we alleviate both mental health symptoms and addiction issues. In this way, we believe in empowering individuals to live without the vicious cycle of poor mental health and substance abuse.

Would you like to learn more about how we can help you, regardless of what caused your addiction? Call our friendly admissions specialists at 937-483-4933 or fill out our confidential contact form. If you’re ready to quit drugs and alcohol, then our Ohio addiction treatment center is ready to help you!

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