Substance Use

What Causes Addiction?

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Table of Contents

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Most Common Risk Factors and Causes of Addiction

Addiction can develop for many different reasons, and the risk factors and causes of addiction vary between individuals. Common reasons for addictions include you or your loved one’s current circumstances or environment, genetics, and more.

If you or someone you know may be at risk of addiction, there is help. Zinnia Health’s compassionate health care providers and treatment specialists are available 24/7/365 to answer any of your questions about substance abuse, drug misuse, alcohol abuse, or the development of addiction and to help you or a loved one find the path to sobriety. Reach out to us online or call our caring treatment professionals at (855) 430-9439.

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Why Do Certain Activities Result in Addiction?

What is it about a substance, such as an opioid, or a repetitive process that causes addiction, varied health problems, and leads to or exacerbates mental disorders? Why do some individuals seem more prone to addiction than others?

Some addictions, such as substance abuse, have a chemical trigger: the addictive substance. On the other hand, a gambling addiction, which is a process addiction, is triggered by the repetitive nature of an activity: continuously pressing the SPIN button on a slot machine.

Process, or behavioral, addictions also involve a chemical aspect, which revolves around dopamine — a neurotransmitter responsible for the regulation of emotional wellbeing. For example, the simultaneous excitement and fear while gambling causes the brain’s reward system to release a surge of dopamine when winning — or to withhold the chemical when losing. 

Primary Risk Factors for Substance Abuse and Drug Addiction

Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has shown several factors could be responsible for addiction, such as genetics and biology, as well as:

  • Family history
  • Environmental factors
  • Childhood or adolescent trauma
  • Mental health
  • Brain changes

Family History

It’s been shown that people with a close relative who’s struggled with addiction have a higher chance of developing an addiction. This isn’t to say that genetics play a role necessarily, but there are some rather interesting connections for some addictions.

For instance, the use of cigarettes, alcohol, and cannabis have all been shown to have genetic components.

Environmental Factors

A person’s environment can play a significant role in the onset of addiction. For instance, growing up below the poverty line or with abusive parents can trigger addictions later in life. But these aren’t the only environmental considerations.

Other contributing factors of addiction include:

  • Pressure from friends
  • Unstable living conditions
  • Parents or older siblings abusing substances
  • Other influences in the community

Many individuals, especially children and adolescents, cannot avoid certain environmental influences, but there are ways to minimize their impact. Children who are raised environments with clear guidance and positive family ties develop the armor of self-control as well as the power to confidently “just say no” when pressured by friends or members of the community to take part in addiction forming behaviors.

Identifying and combating the environmental risk factors for addiction can be complicated — but Zinnia Health can help. Call us at (855) 430-9439.

Childhood or Adolescent Trauma

The events of a person’s childhood — especially their formative years — can significantly affect their brain development and mental health.

Some of the types of trauma that can eventually lead to an addiction include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Verbal abuse
  • Emotional neglect or abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Bearing witness to acts of violence
  • Experiencing parental divorce
  • Constantly moving and/or switching schools

Even seemingly minor changes, such as frequently moving, can increase a person’s risk of developing an addiction. In fact, the more times a child moves to a new house or school between kindergarten and 12th grade, the more susceptible they become to depression, not graduating high school, and getting in trouble with the law.

Childhood experiences or memories involving parental use of addictive substances also place a child at increased risk for substance use in their adolescent and teen years — when peer pressure is at its highest — leading to multigenerational cycles of mental health and substance use disorders.

Mental Health

In cases of disrupted family units, meeting with mental health professionals and attending family therapy programs is advised. An effective treatment plan may even include inviting close friends who’ve also been affected (or who will play a role during recovery) to attend these therapy sessions.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse

Undiagnosed mental health conditions can exacerbate stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which contribute to a higher potential for addictive behaviors. When a mental health condition is left untreated, an individual often turns to substances as a self-medicating method of alleviating depression and coping with symptoms.

For example, people who have bipolar disorder are at heightened risk of substance abuse issues to cope with their mental health condition. However, a person with bipolar disorder who abuses cocaine may experience worse bipolar symptoms and, without treatment, progressively worsen their condition.

Changes in the Brain

Some substances can alter an individual’s brain chemistry. Other substances take longer to have this effect, but addiction usually happens when a substance is used multiple times because it actually changes the brain, and the chemicals that the brain releases signifying pleasure or happiness.

Zinnia Health Can Help

If you or a loved one are worried about the effects of potential addiction and need help finding the path to sobriety, Zinnia Health’s compassionate treatment professionals are available 24 hours/day, seven days/week.

Contact us online or call us to speak with one of our caring specialists at (855) 430-9439.

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