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Causes and Underlying Factors of Addiction

August 3, 2018

Thanks to modern science and its effective dissemination, most individuals can now understand that addiction is a chronic disease. This disease drastically impacts the reward circuitry of an addict’s brain, effectively impairing one’s judgment, physiological independence and emotional well-being. However, even if you understand addiction as the disease it is, it is often difficult to acknowledge just how addiction manifests.

How Addiction Is Characterized

Addiction is defined by a collection of dynamics, including: cravings for a substance, behavioral impairment, severe inability to abstain from said substance, continued use of a substance despite evident consequences like financial or legal troubles, dysfunctional response when access to substance is gone, memory impairment and physical health problems, including chronic disease and disability and more. Addiction is much different from a habit- although habits are second-nature, they are usually able to be controlled by the individual. This is quite different from addiction, which accompanies certain psychological and neurological changes and can not be controlled. It is important to recognize exactly what addiction can look like before we can understand what is often behind it.

Predispositions Toward Substance Abuse

So what does cause addiction? Though people of all backgrounds, creeds, socioeconomic statuses, races, gender orientations, and sexual orientations face addiction, sometimes certain lifestyle factors can leave individuals predisposed to developing an alcohol use disorder or a substance use disorder. Some of these dynamics include: high stress levels and lack of appropriate coping mechanisms to deal with said stress, a history of addiction- whether it is alcohol or substance abuse- in the family, severe trauma- this includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, wartime trauma, family dysfunction and more, mental health conditions (often individuals are dually diagnosed with addiction and a mental illness, most often mood disorders like depression and chronic anxiety), death of a loved one or chronic feelings of loneliness, feelings of disparity (for instance, LGBTQ individuals face addiction at higher rates, this is often attributed to the isolation and rejection many gay and lesbian individuals face, especially in less enlightened communities), and more. Though these factors contribute to rates of addiction, there is no real guarantee when it comes to the diseases of substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder.

How Addiction Develops

Though we listed predispositions for developing the disease of addiction, once an individual begins drinking or using, addiction unfolds in a mostly uniform, biological way. Constant use of drugs and alcohol dramatically change parts of the brain that are associated with reward, memory and motivation. Some of the areas most affected by substance abuse include: the amygdala, the basal forebrain, the Nucleus Accumbens and the Anterior Cingulate Cortex. Drugs affect these crucial areas of the brain by interfering with neurotransmitters and the usual interactions they have.

As you can see, addiction is a rigorous, catastrophic process, harmful to both an individual’s body and spirit. With that said, it is of the utmost importance that the South Florida drug and alcohol treatment program you choose recognizes the disease model of addiction, and can treat both the bodies and minds of those struggling with addiction. At Truth Recovery Center, our treatment programs provide the opportunity to leave a lifetime of addiction and relapse in the past and move forward into long-term sobriety.