Understanding the Root Causes of Addiction

To effectively treat and prevent addiction, it is important to understand what leads someone to become addicted in the first place. This article will explore some of the main root causes of addiction so we can better address this nationwide issue.


Genetics and Family History

Research shows that individuals with a family history of addiction are more likely to develop addictions themselves. This is because addictive behaviors can be genetically inherited. Genes influence the reward pathways in the brain involved in addiction. People predisposed to finding addictive substances more rewarding may be wired for addiction. Family dynamics also contribute, as growing up around addiction can normalize it.

Thankfully, there are treatments out there that can help those who have increased risks of becoming an addict. For example, A Virginia Partial Hospitalization Program can help those with a genetic predisposition to addiction through early intervention, education, counseling, and skill building to prevent substance abuse from developing. Addressing the genetic factors enables at-risk individuals to get help before addiction takes hold.

Unresolved Trauma

Past trauma is strongly correlated with addiction. Traumatic events like physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, grief from losing a loved one, and wartime experiences can all profoundly impact the brain. This often leads to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. To cope with the extremely painful emotions and intrusive memories that emerge after trauma, many turn to drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication. Substance abuse provides temporary relief and escape but prevents the person from truly healing.

Processing trauma in a healthy way through evidence-based psychotherapy approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy, EMDR, prolonged exposure therapy, and somatic experiencing can aid addiction recovery and break the cycle of abuse. Support groups provide connection and understanding for trauma survivors. Other trauma-informed treatment modalities include mindfulness practices, art therapy, and equine therapy. As past wounds are properly tended to, the need for self-medication reduces.

Mental Health Disorders

Addiction has a very intertwined relationship with mental illness. Many people develop substance addictions while attempting to cope with untreated conditions like clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders. In fact, people with mental health disorders are twice as likely to develop a co-occurring substance use disorder. The two issues build on each other, as chronic drug and alcohol use can worsen and exacerbate mental health symptoms.

Conversely, active mental illness can increase susceptibility to addiction relapse after rehab. Having both a substance abuse problem and mental health disorder is referred to as a dual diagnosis. It presents added challenges for treatment and recovery. Integrated treatment that addresses both simultaneously has been shown to be most effective. This can include psychotherapy, medication management, CBT, and DBT therapies tailored for dual-diagnosis patients. Peer support groups specifically for co-occurring disorders can also provide needed community. With proper treatment, those with mental illness and addiction can manage both conditions successfully.

Understanding the most common root causes of addiction allows us to take a more thoughtful, thorough approach to treatment and prevention. Genetics, trauma, and mental illness all frequently underlie addictive behaviors. Addressing these core issues helps strengthen recovery and lowers relapse rates. 

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Laiba Nayab
Laiba Nayab

Part of the editorial team at LAFFAZ. Laiba embraces a keen interest in reading and writing about lifestyle, culture, and beauty topics; and keeps track of social media and the fashion industry.

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