In 2019, 21.2 million Americans were victims of some form of substance addiction. This doesn’t even factor in those suffering from non-substance related addictions (like compulsive behaviors).
With an addiction epidemic this strong, it’s important to understand how these addictions form to help fight back against them. What pushes people towards these substances that get them hooked, or why do they get hooked so easily? However, this isn’t exactly information everyone’s got ready to go at the top of their heads. So what can you do?
Well, we’re glad you asked. It’s time to take a look at the most common causes of addiction. So, let’s start with the biological components.
Genetics and Statistics
One factor that puts you at a greater risk of addiction lies with your genetics. Parents with a long history of substance abuse will pass that genetic trait onto their children. This increases their likelihood to develop a similar addiction if exposed to the substance.
What’s more, having parents suffering from substance addiction will put you at greater risk due to the environment created by that addiction. Not only will addiction feel normalized for you, but you could end up seeing it as a viable option to escape some form of pain. For example, if children’s minds link drinking or drug use to seeing people act happy or energetic, they’ll see the use of these substances as a positive.
The likelihood of abuse happening in these families also increases when substance abuse is present. Childhood abuse can foster trauma that pushes individuals towards unhealthy substances to cope.
There are also age and gender trends with substance abuse. Those within the 18-25 year range are at the most risk, as are men over women. Minorities also tend to be at greater risk due to unequal socioeconomic conditions and the environments created by them.
Social Causes of Addiction
Another major cause of addiction stems from the circle of peers you associate with. For young people, getting pressured into drinking heavily or doing drugs at parties so they can fit in is a common occurrence. At colleges, intense hazing rituals have even lead to participants getting hooked on drinking or dying due to an overconsumption of alcohol.
Of course, this doesn’t mean this behavior isn’t still present in adults. The need to connect with social circles or not wanting to go against the grain acts as the gateway for many addictions in adulthood. This is further exacerbated if this need is brought around by the need to appeal to someone for a career opportunity.
On that note, it’s also important to look at the work environment a person operates within. Let’s say someone works at a job that pushes them into a fast-paced environment with little flexibility. They are more likely to seek out harmful substances to compensate for the stress of the job.
Someone going through a lot of stress related to other issues (like caring for a terminally sick family member or issues with a significant other).
The Social Connections Continue
A similar thing can happen to those with limited social circles or trouble connecting with other people. This social anxiety can even entwine with the peer pressure factor to create an even greater push towards getting hooked on dangerous substances.
The media we consume also plays a part in glamorizing substance abuse. While a lot of media takes time to show the negative effects of drugs and alcohol, some will portray it as fun or a way to signify depth and grittiness. Couple that with the barrage of celebrity drug scandal stories paraded around by news organizations, and it’s not hard to see why people link heavy drug use or drinking as the “rock-star life”.
All In Your Mind
A major cause of addiction stems from the effect addictive substances have on the human brain. For starters, certain drugs like cocaine will give your brain a high dose of dopamine, or the pleasure receptors of your brain. Your brain will link the drug with a positive experience and thus encourage you to take the drug more and more.
In the case of alcohol, the dopamine sensors in your brain will actually dull due to damage. As a result, your brain will have difficulty responding to normal activities that were once pleasurable. The only way to get them to function again is to keep drinking, which in turn leads to addiction.
These substances also get your brain to exhibit the symptoms of withdrawal. This is because your brain treats the addictive substance as something you need, and debilitates you to drive you back to it so you can “live”.
Mental illnesses can also play a part in increasing the likelihood of addiction. Those with anxiety or depression can find using drugs or alcohol a great way to increase their confidence or numb the pain they feel, which will lead to addiction down the line. PTSD from traumatic events like military service can also play a part here, and there’s even special VA alcohol rehab to address those problems.
There is a good assortment of tiny factors that will boost the likelihood of addiction. For example, certain prescription medications have adverse effects on your body when taken in conjunction with alcohol or hard drugs. These effects can manifest as an augmentation of the damage to your brain these substances already do, hastening the path to addiction.
In certain cases, a lack of education can also contribute. Those who aren’t aware of the negative consequences will be less hesitant to abuse hard substances and thus fall into the trap of addiction. Finally, certain drugs like cocaine or meth carry higher chances of addiction due to their sheer “power”.
Moving Forward in Life
Now that you know the most common causes of addiction, you’re ready to help identify the symptoms in others as well as stay away from it yourself. If you found this article informative, feel free to share it with others so as many people get this knowledge as possible. It’s only through education and the motivation to create real change that we can help solve the epidemic of addiction.