What Causes Addiction?

Learn What Exactly Causes Addiction

What causes addiction is different for everyone. Learn the common risk factors for addiction and what causes addiction in the brain to better understand how addiction develops and progresses. Addiction is a chronic and relapsing disease that changes brain function and affects thought and behavior. It’s characterized by the compulsive abuse of drugs or alcohol even though the abuse is causing serious problems in your life. But what causes addiction? The fact is, there is no single cause of addiction. Rather, developing an addiction involves genetic and environmental factors, and it may be influenced by your specific biology and personality. 

Understanding what causes addiction in the brain can help you understand how addiction must be treated for long-term successful recovery. Likewise, understanding some of the risk factors associated with addiction can help you understand what causes addiction to drugs or alcohol.

What Causes Addiction in the Brain?

To understand what causes addiction, it’s essential to know what happens in your brain when you chronically abuse drugs or alcohol.

Drugs and alcohol act on the learning, memory, and reward centers of the brain. When you use a psychoactive substance, your brain releases the feel-good chemical dopamine. The dopamine floods the pleasure center of the brain, and the memory center records a memory of that pleasure. The learning center creates a response to the environment in which the pleasure occurred. This is known as a trigger.

Eventually, your brain creates a powerful association between the pleasure and using the drug. This ironclad association is driven by the same mechanisms that lead you to eat food and procreate in order to survive. Because it’s so powerful, it changes the way you think and behave. These patterns of thought and behavior are typically dysfunctional and make it extremely difficult to stop using drugs or alcohol without professional help.

Risk Factors and Underlying Issues: What Causes Addiction?

Addiction affects one in ten Americans. The National Institute on Drug Abuse stresses that willpower and good intentions are rarely enough to overcome an addiction for the long-term. That’s because addiction almost always has underlying causes that need to be addressed in order to treat it. Additionally, overcoming an addiction requires re-training the brain to think and behave in healthy ways.

Successfully treating an addiction requires understanding what causes addiction for a particular individual. While there is no single cause of addiction, there are many risk factors for it. Having these risk factors may increase your risk of developing an addiction. Some of the most common and powerful risk factors for addiction include:

  • A history of trauma.
  • Mental illness, such as anxiety or depression.
  • A family history of addiction.
  • Chronic stress.
  • Medical issues.
  • Family dysfunction.
  • Using drugs or alcohol at an early age.

Treating Addiction Requires a Holistic Approach

Regardless of what causes addiction to drugs for a particular individual, treating the addiction requires a personalized treatment plan that delves into the underlying issues behind the addiction. A holistic approach to treatment that addresses issues of body, mind, and spirit is the best way to treat an addiction, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

A variety of traditional and complementary therapies address the complex issues behind an addiction. Clients in a treatment setting learn to evaluate their thoughts, ideas, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors and identify those that are self-destructive. They learn new, healthier ways of thinking and behaving. Additionally, addressing trauma, sources of stress, problematic relationships, and other problems is essential for promoting long-term recovery.

Treatment works. Most people who engage in a treatment program successfully recover from their addiction. Treatment helps you restore your life and improve your overall physical and mental health and well-being, and it can help dramatically improve your quality of life for the long-term.

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.