What Causes Addiction?

ARC Recovery Centre

Date: 22 March 2024

Addiction is a widespread challenge that affects many individuals. It’s essential to understand the complexities of addiction, given how common it is in our society. Learn about the root causes of addiction and how to treat and prevent it.

Biological Factors

When it comes to why people get addicted, we have to look at some biological factors. One significant aspect is a familial connection. If addiction runs in your family, there’s a higher likelihood you might face similar struggles. Genetic factors also play a role, as specific genes can contribute to an increased susceptibility to addiction. Beyond family history and genetics, our brains operate on a delicate balance of chemicals, such as dopamine, which influence our experience of pleasure. When these neurotransmitters become imbalanced, it can disrupt our reward system and elevate the risk of addiction.

Recognizing the details of these biological elements underscores that addiction isn’t merely a matter of willpower. Addiction involves complex processes within our bodies.

Environmental Factors

Our surroundings play a big part in why addiction happens. Think about the things you were exposed to as a kid. Epigenetics, the study of changes in gene expression without alterations to the underlying DNA sequence, shows us how our early experiences influence addiction risk. Childhood experiences, both positive and challenging, significantly shape our predisposition to addiction. Traumatic events, especially during childhood, can leave lasting epigenetic marks and increase susceptibility to addictive behaviors.

Difficulties and problems happening at home can have a significant impact. Also, the friends we hang out with and what’s considered cool in our social groups can affect whether we start using substances.

Brain Chemistry

Our brain chemistry also plays a significant role in addiction. Every time you engage in an activity that contributes to your survival, like eating or sleeping, your brain is flooded with dopamine.
Dopamine is the chemical messenger or neurotransmitter that communicates with the brain and signals when something is good or bad. If something makes you feel good, it’s registered as something that should be repeated.

When you indulge in drugs, dopamine is unnaturally released. As your intake increases, your brain becomes overwhelmed by the high dopamine release. Because of this, your body eventually starts producing less than it should, and when your brain can’t produce enough dopamine, a physical dependency is born. Withdrawal symptoms are then triggered by your body to keep you hooked on the substance.

How long it takes to trigger withdrawal symptoms depends on the depth of addiction and the substances used. Alcohol takes between eight and thirty-six hours, while heroin withdrawals get triggered within twelve hours of the last dose.

Not Having an Adequate Support System

A strong support system provides emotional support, understanding, and empathy, which are crucial in managing stress and emotional challenges. Sometimes, without this support, individuals turn to substances or addictive behaviors as a way to cope with difficult emotions or situations.

When drugs seem like the only reliable thing in someone’s life, it makes recovering from addiction feel like an impossible task. Moreover, facing withdrawal systems alone can be highly overwhelming, often resulting in relapse.

Mental Health Disorders

Some mental disorders, such as bipolar, anxiety, and depression, can increase the risk of addiction. Many people who struggle with substance addiction also struggle with mental wellness. Mental disorders left untreated can become overwhelming, potentially leading to the use of drugs as a coping mechanism. These illnesses affect brain activity, making individuals more susceptible to using drugs to alleviate unpleasant symptoms by reducing their negative awareness of those symptoms; this, in turn, leads to a dual diagnosis or a co-occurring disorder.

Coping with addiction while dealing with mental illness makes it even harder to stop the use of substances. While this sounds scary, with effective dual-diagnosis treatment, there’s still the option of having a full recovery.

When to Seek Professional Addiction Treatment

Seeking professional addiction treatment is crucial when it begins to significantly interfere with your daily life, relationships, work, or health. Here are some signs that indicate it might be time to seek help:

  • Loss of Control: You find it challenging to stop or control addictive behavior despite repeated attempts.
  • Negative Impact: Your addiction is causing problems in your personal relationships, work, finances, or health.
  • Withdrawal Symptoms: Experiencing physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop the behavior.
  • Increased Tolerance: Needing more substance or behavior to achieve the same effect.
  • Preoccupation: Spending a lot of time thinking about, obtaining, or engaging in addictive behavior.
  • Failed Attempts: Unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control the addiction on your own.

It’s important to understand that addiction can affect individuals differently, and what might be a sign for seeking help for one person might not be the same for another. If you’re unsure whether your behavior constitutes an addiction or if you’re concerned about your habits, reaching out to a professional can provide clarity and guidance on the best course of action.

Addiction Recovery Centre(ARC) Help Beat Addiction

Living with addiction affects all areas of your life, including your relationship with loved ones, mental health, finances, self-esteem, and so much more. At Comprehensive Wellness Centers, we understand that addiction is personal. Everyone has their story, and we work with all our patients individually to develop a customized recovery program. We’ll be there every step of the way to help you through the process and get better. Get started by contacting us today to verify your insurance.


* indicates required