What Causes a Drug Addiction?

Content medically reviewed by Vicky Magobet, PMHNP-BC, on August 3, 2020.

If you or a loved one are confronting a drug addiction, you might find yourself wondering how it started. There are many potential factors that can lead to addiction — and while it might come down to a single cause for one person, it can be an assortment of circumstances for another. Once you start looking at possible drug addiction causes, you can learn to identify your own personal triggers and work toward recovery.

5 Causes of Drug Addictions

Here are five of the most common causes of drug addiction.

1. Biology

Genetics play a huge role in the development of drug addiction. If a family member has a history of addiction, you may be at risk of developing a dependency yourself.

Identifiers like gender or ethnicity may also have an increased risk of developing a drug addiction. Mental illness, which can lead to a psychological aspect of addiction, can be genetic as well.

2. Environment

Environmental factors like economic status, peer pressure and early exposure to drugs may account for drug addiction later in life. Economic status, though not directly linked to drug addiction, can lead to feelings of stress. As a result, some people turn to addictive substances as a way to unwind. In lower-income neighborhoods where drugs become a common coping mechanism for financial strain, it might be more common for younger people to try drugs and pressure others to follow the same path.

3. Development

The developmental aspect of addiction is often connected to an individual's environment. If a person starts using drugs during their teenage years, they are more likely to develop a lasting addiction. Traumatic experiences at a young age contribute greatly to the developmental side of drug addiction because trauma affects the neural connections in the brain. These altered connections can create mood disorders and problems with impulse control, which may lead to the use of drugs as a coping mechanism for some.

4. Psychology

Our brains tell us a lot about drug addiction. Many times, dependency starts when someone is searching for a way to activate the pleasure centers in their mind. They may be searching for a pleasure response because they're stressed, bored or sad.

For this reason, there's often a correlation between mental illness and drug addiction. In fact, about 20% of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder have a substance abuse problem. Factors like biology, environment and development often result in psychological difficulties, so psychology is a substantial driving force behind drug addiction.

5. Chronic Pain

In some cases, drug addiction can begin with a prescription to painkillers. Even if an individual doesn't exhibit other causes of drug dependency, chronic pain or a long-term injury may lead to painkiller abuse. In 2017, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 2 million Americans had misused prescribed painkillers within the past year.

Find Help With Diamond House Detox

No matter how your drug addiction began, you deserve to get better. At Diamond House Detox, we support your recovery with private detox and rehab centers in Northern California. We also provide Incidental Medical Services, so all medically assisted detoxes happen in-house. Begin your journey to recovery and contact us today.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner at Diamond House Detox
Vicky is a board certified Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. She began her nursing career in healthcare by working in the intensive care unit, and then an inpatient psychiatric hospital. After realizing the mental health needs of both the patients and the families she served, she became a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. Throughout her experience working with clients, she has developed a passion for those with dual diagnoses and specializes in helping individuals recognize the issues driving their substance use. This recognition has been crucial to the individual’s success in treatment. Vicky opened Diamond House Detox so that she can address these issues early on in a therapeutic environment to allow clients to transition to the next level in their recovery.
Vicky Magobet
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