Chat with us, powered by LiveChat
Feugiat nulla facilisis at vero eros et curt accumsan et iusto odio dignissim qui blandit praesent luptatum zzril.
1 800 888-8888
Welcome to BrainSpark Health
+1 (888) 258-7584


what causes addiction

What Causes Addiction? An Honest Look at This Prevalent Affliction

More than 20 million Americans face substance abuse and addiction. That’s more than the number of people fighting all forms of cancer in any given year.

The difference in treatment is startling. Only a small number of those who face addiction will receive the necessary treatment.

One of the reasons may be that many people don’t have a very good understanding of addiction. More people are now talking about it as a disease, but this hasn’t always been the view. Even scientists and medical professionals aren’t sure what causes addiction.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at why some people develop addiction and others don’t. We’ll go over the evolution of thinking about addiction. Finally, we’ll take a look at what can be done for those who struggle with this disease.

Understanding Addiction as a Disease

Current scientific thinking supports the idea that addiction is a disease. This wasn’t always the case.

Is drug addiction a disease? The more research progresses, the more signs point to yes.

In the past, theories of addiction claimed it happened because of personal weakness. People who became addicted were morally weaker than those who didn’t. Most people thought addiction could be overcome if the person tried hard enough.

This kind of thinking is what created a stigma against people who are addicted. Even today, many see people struggling with addiction and believe it’s their own fault. They also believe people with addiction could stop if they wanted to, but that they won’t try.

Modern Research Rewrites Addiction Theory

The “personal weakness” model of addiction explains why only some people become addicted.

Modern medical science doesn’t support it at all. Instead, research suggests addiction is best understood as a disease. Thanks to the idea of “personal weakness,” though, many people today ask, “How is addiction a disease?”

Anyone who has struggled with substance abuse knows addiction is difficult to beat. People who misuse substances often want to stop, but they find they can’t.

Research shows addiction rewires the brain, which is one reason it’s so hard to overcome. Over time, as the disease progresses, these changes become more pronounced. They lead to differences in behavior and even changes in personality.

Theories of What Causes Addiction

We’ve progressed in understanding addiction as a disease, but we still don’t know what causes it. 

It’s one of the biggest questions for researchers working in this area. Why do some people become addicted while others don’t?

There are currently two leading theories about the causes of addiction.

The Genetic Theory

The field of genetics has advanced so much since the discovery of DNA in the 20th century. Researchers today are experimenting with treatments like gene therapy and gene editing.

We know genes play a role in the development of some diseases. For example, some types of breast cancer are linked to a specific gene mutation. People who carry this mutated gene have a much higher risk of developing breast cancer.

Some people have a genetic predisposition to developing addiction. Scientists haven’t isolated a single gene that “causes” addiction though. There’s likely a cluster of genes that influence the risk someone will develop addiction.

The Mental Health Theory

Another theory about the cause of addiction says a person’s mental health could put them at risk.

In this theory, people misuse substances as a way of coping with problems. These issues may include everything from poor stress management to mental illness.

The theory stands because many substances create feelings of euphoria or relaxation. They encourage the brain to over-release chemicals, which results in greater pleasure. The person is “rewarded” for taking the drug and feels better.

This is a pathological coping mechanism because it leads to addiction. Over time the person develops physical dependence as well as a psychological one.

Research has also been shown that brain changes do occur after extended periods of drug and/or alcohol abuse

This theory says addiction can be overcome by treating the root causes. This is often a mental health condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder. It can’t be overcome by “trying hard enough.”

In this model, addiction is still a disease that needs proper treatment.

Other Theories

There are some other theories about what causes addiction. Some, like biological theories showing brain changes, have good support.

Others, like social theories and moral theories, have less scientific support. They do help us understand the complexity of addiction.

Which Theory Is Right?

Once we understand addiction causes, we’ll be able to develop better treatments.

So which theory is right? Is addiction caused by genetics? Or does someone have to have a mental health condition to develop an addiction?

Both of these theories are correct to an extent. Addiction often co-exists with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Scientific research suggests there’s a genetic link with these conditions, too.

A complex combination of genetic and environmental factors likely lead to addiction.

This is true of other diseases, like cancer. Having a mutated gene is not a guarantee for developing a particular disease. It only increases the chances of developing it.

People with Addiction Need Treatment Now

No matter what the cause of addiction is, the 20 million-plus Americans facing it need treatment. Better scientific understanding helps us develop better treatments for these people.

Today, many of the treatments available involve long-term rehabilitation programs. These intensive programs may last 30 days or more.

They may be one of the reasons only ten percent of people who misuse substances receive the care they need. These programs are expensive. They also require people to take time away from their families and their jobs.

In short, many people with addiction can’t afford this kind of treatment.

What other options exist? Some newer therapies, like NAD IV treatment, can be administered over a shorter time. Other supportive activities can help people manage their recovery.

Help is Close at Hand

Understanding what causes addiction can help you make decisions about treatment. Recovering from this disease is possible.

If you’re ready to seek treatment, get in touch with us. Your road to recovery can begin today.