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What Are the Roots of Addiction?

Addiction affects every aspect of a person’s life. From damaging relationships, health, and finances, someone’s need to be intoxicated can place them in situations they never thought they would be in. 

Science shows that addiction is the same as any other mental health disorder. It is an illness that requires long-form treatment. This can include a stay in an inpatient rehab center and continued attendance in 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Many people enter treatment and find recovery. 

In their recovery journey, one may try to trace where their addiction started. Some find they quickly developed an issue over a short period. Others find they were prone to addiction, even before their first drink or drug. Below we’ll explore some of the roots of addiction. 

What Is Addiction? 

A substance use disorder (SUD) is characterized by overindulging in a mind-altering drug despite experiencing negative consequences. Someone with an SUD will continue to drink or use drugs even if there have been legal, relationship, or work troubles as a result of their use. 

Addiction can look different depending on the person, but for the most part, some signs and symptoms fit all with a substance use disorder. Some signs and symptoms of an SUD are:

  • feeling you need to use drugs regularly to feel normal 
  • fantasizing and constantly thinking about the next drink or drug 
  • needing more of a substance to reach desired effects 
  • binging on substances 
  • overstocking on substances 
  • stealing or committing other crimes to feed cravings 
  • constantly dealing with withdrawal symptoms 
  • failing to use substances in moderation 

If you or a loved one have experienced one or more of these symptoms, you may want to consider looking into treatment. 

What Are Some Root Causes of Addiction?

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 165 million people in the United States used a substance in 2019. Many people will at least try some sort of substance in their lifetime. However, many don’t feel the need to compulsively indulge after their first phase of experimentation. So, what makes the 20 million people who had an addiction in 2019 more prone to addiction than other Americans?

There is no single answer. Instead, many common factors are found in those who develop issues with substances. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) lays out several risk factors that are experienced at a young age that may lead to drug misuse and addiction

These risk factors are:

  • violent or aggressive behavior in childhood 
  • low parental supervision 
  • peer pressure 
  • experimentation at a young age 
  • availability of drugs in the community 
  • growing up in poverty

Other factors can be found at the root of an addiction. This includes having a mental health disorder, experiencing trauma, and boredom. At a biological level, those with a family history of substance abuse are more prone to addiction. The earlier someone begins to indulge in drugs, the more likely they are to develop an addiction. 

Contrarily, the NIDA laid out a list of protective factors that may lead to the prevention of a SUD.  Protective factors are:

  • a belief in self-control control 
  • close parental monitoring and involvement 
  • positive relationships
  • achieving high grades 
  • living in a community that promotes a drug-free environment 

What Can Be Done?

One of the best ways to prevent substance abuse is by educating young people on the dangers of drugs. Many schools and communities have programs in place that do this, but more may be needed. Attending 12-step meetings, which are free to the public, where stories of recovery are shared may make an impact on teens who are beginning to find trouble with their drug use. 

Another prevention tool is supplying children and teens with as many opportunities as possible. Many times, young people believe there is nothing more to do in their community than indulge in substances. By providing artistic, athletic, and community-building opportunities, a young person may not find an interest in substances. 

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash

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