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The Top Ten Reasons That People Become Addicted to Drugs

Brenda Munnerlyn, RN, BSN

Medically reviewed by

Brenda Munnerlyn, RN, BSN

February 18, 2019

There are several reasons that people become addicted to drugs or alcohol. While each individual has their own story, there are common risk factors and influences that can lead someone down the road to developing an addiction.

There are several major players in the lineup of contributing factors leading to drug addiction. Many of those who suffer at the hand of addiction are also plagued by a mental illness, commonly in the form of an emotional disorder, such as depression. Those of us who suffer from other leading causes of addiction may find that past traumas or similar familial behaviors have led us to use and abuse drugs to the point of dependency. Regardless of the cause, every drug-dependent individual should be aware of the innumerable recovery options that are specific to their history, level of addiction, and future goals. Below are the top ten reasons behind addiction entering people’s lives and the various treatments that may help the affected person in each instance.

1. Genetic Inheritance

It can be a crap shoot as to whether or not we will inherit certain aspects of our parents’ genetic makeups. You may be the lucky one to receive blue eyes from generations back, but you may also be the unlucky soul to be plagued by drug addiction that runs thick in your veins.

Many children of addicts will resent their parents for their several wrongdoings and then grow into drug dependents, themselves. As they begin to use, it is generally easier for them to take in a larger, more lethal amount of a given substance, as their tolerances usually run higher than others’. The more the affected needs to feel the effects of drugs, the easier the addiction tends to set in. Soon, one who may have only wanted to use in a social setting, is using because they have to and because something innate within their being drives them to crave what they rely on. For those who are undergoing this extreme and inborn disease, an inpatient rehabilitation center would be best for long-term recovery from drug addiction.

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2. Mental Illness

Many people do not know how common it is to suffer from both an addiction and a mental illness. Sometimes the mental illness—such as anxiety, depression, or even obsessive compulsive disorder—can be the catalyst that brings addiction to the metaphorical surface of a person’s being. It then begins to affect them in several areas of their life, making addiction a mode of self-medication that seems to never end. As drug use becomes more frequent, problems persist making the mental illness seem worse, driving the self-medication to continue in a cyclical fashion.

Though it is common for mental illness to come first, we don’t always know what came first, but simple drug use can be the point that brings about the mental illness that may have been brewing inside of us. At that point, it is all too common for the drug use to turn into addiction. This addiction is something that is difficult to treat when the actual source is unknown and oftentimes, the addicted person is quick to deny any possible mental illness.

Knowing your genetic background for this cause can be very beneficial as it can steer you in the right direction for diagnoses. If you or a loved one suffers from mental illness and coinciding drug addiction, figuring out the root of your diseases may be hard to even fathom. In these cases, dual diagnosis treatment is your best option for getting sober and relieving the mental anguish you experience. Many addiction recovery centers across the country offer dual diagnosis programs which treat mental illness and addiction together.

3. Social Influence

Almost everyone can relate to the ways in which drugs and alcohol enter lives through social encounters. We grow up and right on that border between young adulthood and true adulthood, we begin to experience the nightlife and party scene in a way that pushes us into the use of mind-altering substances. Those around us in social settings are generally the most influential people in our lives when it comes to bad decision making. Friends and acquaintances may not be able to make our decisions for us, but they certainly do make good partners in crime during the college years.

Often, what once began as partying hard, ends up as the foundation for years of addiction-related issues and a lack of direction when college and partying days come to a close. Those who have a dependency on drugs and alcohol due to social pressures may find 12-step programs and outpatient rehabilitation convenient as they work toward a future. For more serious cases of addiction, inpatient rehabilitation programs are recommended.

4. Stress Relief

Life has many goods and bads to offer us. It is the ways in which we deal with every card we’re dealt that lead us to a future, also good or bad.

Work is stressful. School is stressful. Family, marriage, babies, and houses are stressful. Vacation is stressful. Thanksgiving is stressful. Changing a tire is stressful. We must remember that life is life, which means that the normal things cause stress and heartache, just like the hard things do. Changing a tire may not cause as much stress as knowing your husband is going to jail for crimes he committed, but when it comes to alcohol and drug abuse, one simple stressor can lead to another. Every link in your chain of problems is always made worse by drug addiction and as many people tend to drown their problems to forget them momentarily, else to make themselves feel a bit better, those stressful points in life become less easy to handle while unimpaired.

Finding treatment for addiction that starts with stressful moments can be as simple as finding a very good therapist. Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches the addicted person to think about their life from another perspective, to alter their bad behaviors, and to make the right decisions for the future. This style of treatment can be found both at rehabilitation centers and in standalone therapy offices.

5. Prescription Dependency

While many of us look at addiction as something that happens after hard drug abuse causes dependency, a huge cause of addiction is over-prescription or prescription abuse after dependency.

In America, more and more doctors are being fined, stripped of medical licenses, and even put behind bars for the amounts of medication they are allowing people to have and take. Many patients think that because a doctor gave it to them, it should help them and it can’t be harmful. What people tend not to know is that pain management medication—the most commonly abused prescription drugs—are of the same origin as heroin. They are opioid drugs and affect the body in exactly the same way as the street drug and are often more potent and “pure” in form.

Though doctors can’t be blamed in every instance of this addiction style, patients who over-medicate themselves or take other people’s medications are at risk for a life of addiction. When the pills run out, those addicted often turn to street versions so they do not get sick. Heroin, Oxycontin, other pain relievers come into play and ruin lives. Long-term inpatient rehabilitation and medications like Suboxone are the best choices for someone battling opioid addiction. Even if you are addicted only to Vicodin pills, it still means that you are also addicted to heroin.

6. Trauma Elusion

Just like someone who deals with stress and mental illness, intense trauma can trigger addiction as it becomes a mode of self-medication during times that seem much too hard to cope with. Situations that change our lives for what seem like the worst can play into binge drinking or over-medication. What life teaches us is that these situations—once etched into the history of our lives—will not ever go away with a drink or a pill or a needle.

Though it may be hard to stomach the nightmares we’ve had to live through, getting over them through therapy and proper medications can make our use of drugs and alcohol diminish. Outpatient rehabilitation and a good 12-step program alongside therapy for the emotional trauma will help those struggling through these terrible hardships.

7. Pleasure Seeking

Many people tend to believe that this is the sole cause of drug and alcohol addiction. They think that everyone who does drugs does so because they love getting high. The truth is that even those who do do drugs because of the high it produces and the way it feels end up hating what they are addicted to. The high of drugs fades significantly when someone is addicted and has built up a tolerance to it. The more they do it, the more their body tells them they need. It may once have been fun and uplifting in some sense, but the majority of drugs that produce lasting highs are also HIGHLY addictive. They can take someone over very quickly and take away the fun in the blink of an eye.

After a rehab center is utilized, it would be wise for those who are influenced by the high of drugs they once loved to live in sober living facilities. Finding new people to spend their time with and adhering to ma change in lifestyle will promote lasting sobriety with better highs in everyday life than drugs could ever provide.

8. Authority Rebellion

Nobody plans on their adolescent behaviors becoming real-life addictions. Unfortunate for many, when many of us are told we cannot do something, we react by doing that very same thing as much as possible. Staying out late, partying with the wrong crowd, dropping out of school, and letting go of responsibilities all lend a hand in what commonly leads to drug and alcohol use and abuse.

Over time, as we grow into people who can tell ourselves what to do and what not to do, we realize that the rebellion that drove us to misbehave also drove us to be completely dependent on drugs and alcohol. Other rebellious behaviors can be concocted at older ages as adults refuse to obey husbands and wives, neglecting work duties and basic responsibilities while bar hopping and inappropriate partying becomes commonplace.

The life of rebellion, like many other lifestyle choices that lead to addiction, needs to be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy mode can change the ways in which people react to outside influences and forces against which they feel they cannot navigate. Knowing that choices in adulthood are ones own, but should be made toward the betterment of life, especially when life is shared—as in marriage—can be life-altering and therapeutic.

9. Legal Indulgence

Not surprising as a cause of addiction, many of us tend to indulge in legal drugs and alcohol that end up making us slaves of dependency. Coming of age to drink, young generations in America take alcohol consumption to extremes these days. Common drinking games and encouragement to binge more and harder on many weekends can become a more serious problem over time.

It may not always be a matter of social setting that lands someone in the deep with drugs and alcohol. Legally purchasing and overusing marijuana, being prescribed pain killers, ADD medication, muscle relaxers, and anti-anxiety pills, such as Xanax, can all contribute to a dependency that becomes harder and harder to shake.

Indulging in something legal that is easy to acquire may make this cause of addiction the most difficult to get a hold on. When it becomes clear that some form of treatment is needed, someone with this style of dependency will need rehabilitation and a change of lifestyle. They may not be able to do things like socialize in pubs and bars. They may also have to announce their dependency to doctors so they are not given something that could jeopardize their sobriety.

10. Experimentation

Throughout history, even those with enormous amounts of fame have found that experimenting with drugs for the purpose of creativity, expression, and philosophical thought are promoting a better atmosphere for their mind and body. Music, art, and literature has long been driven by drug-addled brains that have most frequently been killed by those same substances.

Finding that creativity can only be had after drug and alcohol abuse could be a sign that the user is not all that talented. The notion that we can use more areas of our brain and open up avenues that were closed before drug use is scientifically inaccurate and also moronic. Drugs affect the brain by blocking receptors that cause the brain, itself, to fend off what is affecting it. This defense mechanism causes the highs and hallucinations that people like to imagine are ingredients stirred into each substance. Realistically speaking, someone who wanted to alter their mind in such a way could ingest trace amounts of poison, receiving similar effect.

Ingesting drugs is just as mindless as ingesting poison and those who do this in an effort to influence brain activity need professional help. Under these circumstances, the most helpful way to treat someone addicted from this cause of drug abuse is through holistic treatment. Holistic rehabilitation can provide healthy alternatives to those who crave to affect the body, mind, and spirit.

Being Ready To Seek Help For Your Addiction

Regardless of how you or a loved one ended up under the hold of addiction, the next step is to seek treatment for this disease. Addiction, unless taken very seriously, can control and destroy lives. The time to get help is now and you can do so by contacting Treatment options and advice are available to anyone in need, so take that first step toward helping us help you.

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