What are the underlying causes of drug addiction?
Drug addiction is a compulsive and chronic disorder of the mind that leads an individual to habitually use a substance in an effort to achieve a desired outcome from it — often the trademark high. Across America, around 20 million people who needed substance abuse treatment in 2013 didn’t receive it, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Over time, the outcome the addict is seeking may change. For instance, initial experimentation with a drug is often rooted in curiosity. As use of the substance becomes more frequent, the body starts to grow physically dependent on the drug in order to function properly.
Signs of addiction include tolerance, a loss of control over how much or how often you use, an obsession with the substance, abandoning events and activities you used to enjoy, and continuing to use drugs even though they have had negative effects on your life. Anyone who begins to experience symptoms of withdrawal — whether mild or severe — in the absence of the substance, is likely dependent on the substance. Withdrawal symptoms can vary from drug to drug and include:
- Nausea, with or without vomiting
- Excessive perspiration
Why do people use drugs?
For many, drug use starts with mere experimentation. This can stem from curiosity about what it’s like to be high or peer pressure. Others stumble upon drugs as an escape from the uncomfortable feelings of sadness or anxiety they experience. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports about 20 percent of substance abusers have an anxiety disorder or a mood disorder, such as depression. When someone is struggling with mental illness, it often isn’t visible to the sufferer, who is in the thick of it.
For many Americans, drug use starts with a prescription. Opiate-based drugs like OxyContin are notorious for both their addictive properties and their likelihood of being overprescribed. The Los Angeles Times reported more around 92,200 people were treated for overdoses on prescription opioid pain relievers in 2010. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes an astounding 259 million prescriptions were written for opioid painkillers in 2012 alone.
There are certainly individuals who are given prescriptions they are very much in need of, such as a patient with anxiety who is given a script for benzodiazepines. These drugs are highly addictive, and as a result, they should only be prescribed for short periods of time. In fact, Helpguide states that individuals who take prescribed benzos for a couple months or longer will very likely become addicted to them, noting that the anti-anxiety therapeutic qualities of the drug will lose their efficacy after four to six months’ time.
What are they using?
The most commonly abused substance in America is alcohol. Across the country, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. states that 17.6 million adults are either dependent on or abusing alcohol. When it comes to drugs, no one drug is abused more than marijuana. In 2012, 18.9 million Americans over the age of 11 were current marijuana users, per the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Other drugs that often lead to addiction include:
Root causes of addiction
Most professionals agree that addiction isn’t solely attributed to one solitary cause. Rather, addiction is a complex disease that forms as a culmination of many factors. One such factor is mental health issues. As mentioned, mental health disorders are highly common among substance abusers. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports over 50 percent of drug addicts have one or more severe mental health disorders.
When two or more disorders exist simultaneously, it is known as a comorbid condition. When this situation is present, all co-occurring disorders must be treated at the same time for the patient to have the best chance at recovering. Failure to treat both issues typically sets the patient up for relapse. For example, a patient with generalized anxiety disorder may take Klonopin to ease the symptoms that plague them each day, but a genuine need for the drug doesn’t make the patient exempt from becoming dependent on it. In fact, when the drug helps with symptoms, the patient is more likely to use it regularly, and addiction could take hold.
While it may not be a cause in and of itself, a genetic predisposition to addiction has been shown to contribute to most cases. According to the Addictions and Recovery, you are eight times as likely to be an addict if one of your parents was an addict. Research points toward hereditary taking responsibility for about 50 percent of the development of addiction, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Merely growing up in a household where drug abuse takes place — even in the absence of addiction — can have the same effects. Per the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, all it takes from the adolescent’s point of view is the parent implying that drugs are no big deal or nothing to be concerned about, and the youth is more likely to use drugs. When parents don’t make a big deal out of educating their children against drug use, or they don’t reprimand such use, the adolescent grows up thinking it’s not that bad. This mentality often leads to increased use.
Get help today
Regardless of the type of addiction in play, comprehensive treatment can effectively address the underlying reasons that led to substance abuse in the first place. With a solid care plan in place, addicts can successfully take back control of their lives and learn to live in recovery. Call us today to learn more.