What causes addiction

Back

This is a question researchers have grappled with for some time. As yet there's no definitive answer and no one has discovered one single cause.

Obviously, if people didn't drink alcohol, use drugs, gamble or indulge in other potentially destructive behaviours, they wouldn't become addicted. However, there are some people who can indulge without becoming addicted. So why do some develop problems and not others?

 

How does addiction start?

 

People try drugs or other potentially addictive behaviour because they are seeking some sort of reward or benefit. Those who take drugs, for instance, do so because of the physical effects they hope to experience. Drugs have a marked effect on the body and mind. If there were no effect, people would be unlikely to repeat the experience. No one sets out just to become addicted.

Crucially, substances and certain behaviours change the way we feel. If they make us feel better, relax us, make us feel powerful, excite us, let us escape and so on, we tend to go back to them.

Sometimes the attraction also comes from the feeling that the behaviour identifies us as one of a certain social group - people may try drugs because they think it will gain them acceptance in a desirable gang or that they become one of the rebels or cool party people.

However, in some people, those experiences uncover a powerful attraction. What can start out as casual experimentation, normal social behaviour or even a doctor's prescription, can lead to repeating the behaviour more frequently and with greater quantities. The more you do, the more likely you're to do more.

Following the psychological shift to dependence (meaning you can't do without the substance or activity), the brain's chemistry may start to adapt, demanding ever more of what it's grown used to and fiercely resisting the discomfort of withdrawal. The behaviour takes on a self-perpetuating life of its own as the body becomes physically dependent on it.

 

Who's at risk of addiction?

 

What makes some people more susceptible to becoming dependent or addicted is perhaps a genetic predisposition. This theory, with some evidence to support it, makes sense especially since addiction crosses social divides. However, this is still debatable.

There are also cultural and social factors that put people at greater risk. For instance, you're less likely to become alcohol-dependent growing up in a country where alcohol consumption is unacceptable than where it's a normal part of everyday life. Growing up in a family where there's alcohol or drug abuse increases the risk. This is also the case for people who suffer childhood trauma, abuse and neglect.

Poverty, a lack of education and unemployment can also increase the risks. If your environment is stressful and you feel unable to change it, you may turn to substances for relief. Significant life events may contribute. If your inner world is in turmoil, you may turn to substances as medication to feel better.

People who don't receive adequate nurture as children or who are more emotionally sensitive may be more susceptible. These factors won't always lead to substance misuse or dependency or any other addictive behaviour, but they can increase vulnerability.

For more information visit:    BBC Health


View as PDF


Back


The Have I Got A Problem website is a free online resource to help people better understand any issues or concerns they may have about mental health or addiction. The website includes resources specifically focused to; general Mental Health, Depression, Stress, Anxiety, Insecurities, Self-harm Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Anger Management, Eating Disorders, Coping, general Addiction, Alcohol, Smoking, Gambling, Drugs, Cocaine, Heroin, Marijuana (Cannabis) Ecstasy, PCP, Mephedrone, Ketamine & Crystal Meth.

The site was created to give the public information to help them understand mental health and addiction issues and to assist people in making better informed decisions about their life and personal choices.

www.haveigotaproblem.com was created and is run by 'Advising Communities’, which is a UK registered charity (Charity No. 1061055)

Quotes

"It reached a stage where I couldn't sleep without a drink, but I couldn't get out of bed without one either"

Steve

MoreSend us your Quotes

Tips & Hints

  • Ask for support

    Tell friends and family that you’re trying to cut down on alcohol - they might be more supportive than you think. But beware, some pe...
    More
  • Keep track of the alcohol units you’re drinking

    The government advises that people should not regularly drink more than the daily unit guidelines of 3-4 units of alcohol for men (equi...
    More
  • Avoid visiting bars and clubs with bars

    Instead resort to amusement such as recreational areas, movies, sports events and family events where alcohol isn’t present. That inc...
    More
  • Develop an alcohol-free daily routine

    Wake up earlier, include some exercise into the daily schedule, the potential is endless. Keep in mind that to stop drinking is to make...
    More
  • Spend as little time alone as possible

    For single people this can be a tall order. If you can’t surround yourself with people, get out more and help yourself to generate a ...
    More
  • More Tips & Hints