Causes of Drug Addiction: Are You At Risk of Becoming An Addict?

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According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2017, nearly 20 million Americans battled some sort of substance abuse disorder. In addition, one in eight people suffered from simultaneous alcohol and illicit drug addiction.

Another alarming statistic is that between April 2020 and April 2021, well over 100,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the USA. This is a near 29% increase from the previous year, with opioids accounting for a large portion of these deaths.

These are some very concerning figures. However, simply knowing that America faces an increasingly severe drug abuse epidemic is not enough to solve the issue. Understanding the underlying causes of drug addiction is essential to finding a solution.

This article discusses the contributing factors and causes of drug addiction. Some of these causes may seem more evident than others, but they are all worth considering.

As mentioned, various factors can lead to severe drug addictions, whether we are talking about illicit drugs, prescribed medications, alcohol, or other substances.

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Medical Prescriptions

Opioids are some of the most effective painkillers. They do a great job relieving pain, but they are also highly addictive and dangerous substances.

In 2019 alone, nearly 50,000 drug overdose deaths involved some kind of opioid, whether illegal or prescription.

Although the study is a bit old, just for reference, in 2012, there were nearly 260 million prescriptions handed out to Americans involving opioids.

Just to illustrate how addictive some opioids are, the Benzodiazepine class of opioids, if taken for more than two months, will likely lead to addiction (while also losing their efficacy in terms of the therapeutic benefits).

This all only applies to people who were given opioid prescriptions. However, there are many other causes of drug addiction to talk about, so let’s move on.

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Drug Addiction and Changes in the Brain

A leading cause of drug addiction is how the human brain reacts to drugs because it involves the pleasure or reward center of the brain. When a person takes drugs, whether cocaine, alcohol or others, it causes the brain to create and release high amounts of dopamine and serotonin, the so-called pleasure or reward chemicals.

Simply put, dopamine and serotonin make you feel good, happy, relaxed, and less stressed. The issue with drug use is that it causes greater amounts of these endorphins to be released than the natural ways they are produced. For example, a person may get an endorphin rush from exercise or eating chocolate, but nothing compared to the rush provided by drugs.

The human brain then stops producing as many of its own endorphins. Your brain slowly grows accustomed to these endorphins being artificially created by drugs. This is a vicious cycle because the more medications a person takes, the brain produces fewer endorphins, and they need to take more of the drug to achieve that same rewarding or pleasureful feeling.

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Many scientific studies list this as the root cause of addiction. Unfortunately, due to addiction and the way the brain works, the only way to keep achieving this rush of pleasure is by taking increased quantities of drugs. Online Therapy can help some people how to find pleasure in life without using drugs. It is a great place to start if you don’t know where to turn.


The unfortunate reality is that genetics play a significant role in drug addiction. Due to your DNA, you may be more or less naturally predisposed to develop a drug addiction.

In fact, up to 60% of a person’s risk of developing an addiction can be attributed to genetics and DNA. Your genetics determine your traits, personality, behaviour, and more, which, in this case, relates to how susceptible you are to drug addiction.

We aren’t geneticists, so we will not dive deeper into the science; however, you may be more naturally predisposed to developing an addiction than someone else. To put this into perspective, if you had one parent who was an addict, you are eight times more likely to develop an addiction yourself.


Another contributing factor to drug addiction is age. Teenagers and youths are known to have impaired judgment and poor impulse control. This can lead them to try drugs in the first place.

Because a young person’s brain is not yet fully developed, drug use may hinder development or cause changes in the brain, such as endorphin release changes discussed above.

Drug use at a young age can affect the brain to increase the overall chances of addiction compared to using drugs at an older age.

Existing Mental Health Conditions

Mental health conditions may also lead to drug addiction. This can be due to various reasons that make a person more predisposed to addiction and can be a form of self-medicating.

For instance, as many as 20% of people with substance abuse issues have some sort of anxiety disorder.

Moreover, roughly 50% of drug users have either one or multiple severe mental health issues such as panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder, which may also lead to drug abuse.

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Environment and Traumatic Events

The other influencing factor is the environment. Many people may develop drug addictions to deal with unfavorable environments.

Fear and trauma caused by physical, mental, or sexual abuse and other traumatic events may cause a person to turn to drugs.

It’s a way to self-medicate, repress emotions, and escape reality. Child abuse, in general, is closely linked to increased instances of drug abuse by those who were abused.

The Causes of Drug Addiction – The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that drug addiction can be caused by various factors, usually a combination. Whatever the root cause, seeking treatment is necessary to break the cycle of drug abuse, with a resource such as the Online Therapy program being a great starting point.


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2 thoughts on “Causes of Drug Addiction: Are You At Risk of Becoming An Addict?”

  1. Pingback: How to Help Someone with Drug Addiction - Addiction Crush

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