What is the Root Cause of Addiction?

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Drug and alcohol addiction is a compulsive disorder that leads an individual to seek drugs and alcohol habitually. But what is the root cause of addiction? There are many theories and opinions about the root cause of addiction.
According to SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 20 million addicts who needed treatment for substance abuse in the US did not receive it. With prolonged use, an addict still feels “high,” but they become dependent on the drug. Addiction is when one needs the drug for the body to function correctly.

The Root Cause of Addiction

Substance use disorders are characterized by:

  • increased tolerance
  • loss of control over how much you take
  • obsession with the drug or alcohol
  • abandoning family members you loved
  • neglecting events you long enjoyed
  • continued use of drugs and alcohol, despite negative side effects
  • feeling an inability to stop using, even though you desperately want to.

When you are suffering from addiction, a professional will take you through a medical detox and a therapy process that involves finding the root cause of addiction.

Why People Abuse Drugs and Alcohol

Most addicts start experimenting with drugs without the thought of ever getting addicted. You might feel curious how it feels to be “high.” Most, however, come across drugs as an escape from uncomfortable feelings or as an escape from emotional pain, sadness, or anxiety. Quite often,  addiction is an escape from a painful reality.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, up to 20 percent of those who abuse substances have anxiety or mood disorders, such as depression or PTSD. When one struggles with a mental illness, they do not recognize they have the illness.
Those who do not experiment with drugs start using them as self-medications.  Opiates such as OxyContin and Methamphetamine have addictive properties that make patients seek more even after they heal. In 2010, for instance, the Los Angeles Times reported 92,200 cases of people who were treated for prescription opioids. In 2012, the Center for Disease Control reported that at least 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers were written.
Some patients receive the medications they need. For instance, someone with an anxiety disorder receives benzodiazepines. However, when these medications are taken for a couple of months, they can lead to addiction.

According to a study on depression and anxiety, childhood trauma and PTSD are closely linked to adult substance use disorders. Traumatic experiences, such as sexual abuse, increase the likelihood that one will abuse alcohol by 44 percent. Alcohol is just one of the substances someone facing childhood trauma or PTSD will abuse. Others include cocaine, opioids, and marijuana.

The Root Cause of Addiction

Addiction has a myriad of triggers. People suffering from addiction might not point to one root cause of addiction. Most growing addicts are not even aware of their addiction. They simply try to cope with life the best they can.

Mental Health & Co-Occurring Disorders

One of the factors that contribute to drug and alcohol abuse is mental health problems. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, at least 50 percent of those addicted to drugs also suffer severe mental health disorders.
Where a patient suffers two or more mental disorders (and a condition referred to as a comorbid condition, the two disorders have to be treated simultaneously. Failure to treat the two conditions at the same time will likely cause a relapse.

Genetics & Family

Some studies suggest addiction can be inherited. Predisposition to addiction can contribute to addiction. You are eight times likely to be an addict if your parents were addicts. Research by the  National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states heredity is responsible for about 50 percent of the development of addiction.
Again, growing up in a house where parents or siblings use drugs can lead to the development of addiction. It only takes the notion that drugs are not a big deal for the youth to start abusing drugs. When parents don’t make a big deal of drugs or they themselves abuse drugs, the children will likely be vulnerable to drug abuse. But that’s not always the case. Addiction has no particular face– anyone can become addicted to substances.

Restless, Irritable, Discontent

In AA meetings, many people cite the need to feel more in their “element” as the root cause and major triggers of their addiction. The feeling that one is discontent, angry, and/or restless makes one seek solace in alcohol and drugs. Again, someone might dive deep into addiction from the feeling of boredom or uselessness.


Addiction is a sign of a deeper-lying problem. The underlying root cause of addiction is not apparent right away to the addict or the therapist working with the addict. When working with addicts, therapists might discover issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety, among others. These associations are considered valid. Most professionals, however, consider personality disorders, including narcissistic personality disorder.
While someone with anxiety and other mental illness may be addicted to drugs, the presence of these disorders does not mean that one will automatically be an addict.
Sometimes, the root cause of addiction is not apparent. This happens in the case of youths who were trying out drugs, enjoyed the euphoric feeling that came with it, and before long, they were addicted.
Whatever the root cause of addiction may be for you or a loved one, the main thing to focus on is getting help. Recovering from these underlying issues will never happen unless professional treatment is sought. Find a treatment center that can help you through this time of need.
If you need help out of the root causes of addiction and want to get sober for good, reach out to Opus Health today. 

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