Drug and Alcohol

The Causes of Addiction

What Causes Addiction?

Drug and addiction is not caused by just one factor like genetics but caused by a combination of different risk factors.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

March 17, 2022

Why does addiction affect everyone differently? Why can some people casually drink alcohol while others become dependent on it? 

Addiction is a complex condition rooted deeply in the brain. It is characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior, psychological need, and the use of a habit-forming substance. Addiction affects all areas of a person's functioning, including thought processes, behaviors, and coping mechanisms. 

Although the first time someone uses a given substance may be a choice, they rarely do so with the concern of potentially becoming addicted to the substance. Unfortunately, there are several risk factors that can make a person susceptible to addiction with even one-time use. 

It is important to understand all of the different risk factors associated with developing an addiction. When you're aware of these factors, you can better protect yourself and your loved ones from the harmful, distressing consequences of the condition. 

Biological Risk Factors

Most people grow up learning that addiction occurs solely from inherited genes. One of the most important things to understand about addiction is that it develops from a combination of risk factors. One of these risk factors does involve genetics, but addiction is not only a result of an inherited predisposition.

One biological risk factor involved in developing an addiction is an individual's personal biology. Since everyone's biological makeup is different — body mass, metabolism, tolerance for substances, genetics, and more — drugs and alcohol affect everyone slightly differently. While some people enjoy the effects that a substance might produce, others may have negative experiences which cause them to hate the effects and never want to use it again.

This can be experienced even within family lines. 

Another biological risk factor is co-occurring mental illnesses, especially ones that are undiagnosed or untreated. Individuals that experience mental health concerns or multiple illnesses at once are more likely to become addicted to substances. This is because people may turn to substances as a form of self-medication.

It may also happen because substance use disorders occur in the same brain regions that other mental illnesses do. 

Social/Environmental Risk Factors

Age, peer groups, and general exposure to substances are social and environmental aspects to consider for risk factors. For example, if a teenager is enabled to use substances by their peer groups, they are more likely to become addicted. This can be from starting drug use at a young age, or from learning from friends that using substances is normal and okay. 

If a person is exposed to drugs or alcohol in their home environment, they are likely to learn that drug use is acceptable. If a home environment produces trauma or abuse for a child, it puts them at high risk for turning to substances later in life. The outcome is similar for children and teens that lack parental monitoring or parental involvement during crucial developmental years. 

Drug-Specific Risk Factors

One warning sign of addiction is an increase in tolerance for specific substances. While some people may not experience tolerance increases for a while, others may start raising their doses or frequency early on. There are also drug-specific risk factors that can increase a person's risk of becoming addicted to a particular substance. 

The type of drug in question is one of the most critical risks of all. Hard drugs like cocaine or heroin can become addictive with only one use, especially because of the painful comedown that follows a high on either of these substances. On the other end of the spectrum, a substance like marijuana may take several uses or frequent uses to become addicted.

Again, these timelines vary for everyone and are dependent on how an individual's personal chemistry reacts to the substance in question. 

Another increased risk for addiction involves the administration of a substance. Just as certain substances are more addictive than others, there are certain routes of administration that can cause addiction to develop more severely. One of the fastest and most dangerous ways to administer a drug (without medical assistance) is through injection, as a substance goes straight to your bloodstream and brain in seconds.

Comparatively, oral substances like edibles or alcohol tend to be less addictive, although again, it all depends on the substance and how a person reacts to it. 

Understanding Protective Factors 

Although many risk factors play a role in the development of addiction, there are also many protective factors that are important to mention. These protective factors are associated with reduced potential for drug experimentation and drug use, which ultimately decreases the risks of developing addiction altogether. 

Some protective factors include:

  • Strong, healthy, and positive family bonds

  • Parental monitoring and general involvement of parents in the lives of their children and teens, including peer groups and activities

  • Conversations surrounding the risks of drug use and addiction

  • Clear expectations regarding drug use and risk-taking behavior

  • Strong involvement and successful academic performance

Addiction Affects Everyone Differently

Have you ever wondered why addiction can take such a toll on one person's life but doesn't seem to affect someone else that regularly uses drugs or alcohol? Addiction affects everyone differently, based on the combination of risk factors that each person is exposed to as they age.

Don't let addiction continue to take its toll on you or your loved one. Take the first step toward recovery today by calling The Edge Treatment Center at (800) 778-1772.

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