Millions of Americans suffer from substance abuse and addiction, starting from as early as 12 years old. A key to understanding this common affliction is knowing that the medical term for substance abuse is substance abuse disorder. This helps us better understand it as a disease rather than a choice. Like most diseases, substance abuse disorder is treatable, and knowing the root causes of substance abuse makes diagnosis and treatment of this common disease possible. Addiction can be scary, especially if you don’t know what you or your loved one is dealing with, why it’s happening, and how it can be helped.
What Is Substance Dependence?
Substance abuse disorder, or addiction, is a disease that affects the brain and behavior and leads to peoples’ inability to control their use of certain addictive substances. Substance abuse definitions can be misleading because they often infer that only illegal substances can be abused when people can abuse all kinds of substances, including legal ones. Alcohol, over-the-counter medications, opiates, stimulants, and prescription drugs are some of the most commonly abused substances in America.
Substance abuse is characterized by the steady need to increase dosage and usage of a particular drug or drugs to experience its effects and the need to use the drug regularly to feel good. Common symptoms are having intense urges that block other thoughts, spending excessive amounts of money on the drug (even if you know you can’t afford it) continuing to use the substance even if it causes problems in your life, taking risks to obtain the drug you normally wouldn’t, the inability to stop using it, experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the drug, and more.
Biological and Psychological Causes of Addiction
There is still a lot of research being done into the various causes and effects of alcohol and drug abuse, and there is a long way to go until the disease is fully understood. However, several major factors can lead to people developing drug abuse problems.
Some of these factors are biological or psychological and could include one or more of the following causes:
Social and Environmental Factors
The environment in which one lives can significantly influence their lifestyle, choices, and preferences. For example, children and adolescents exposed to drug or alcohol abuse at home are more likely to start using substances themselves than children who are not. This is the clearest example of how the environment can influence people, but many other impactful social and environmental factors can lead to addictive behavior.
Behavior Linked Causes
Aside from the psychological and environmental factors leading to drug or alcohol dependency, many behavioral factors also impact an individual’s relationship with substances. Some of these include the desire to experience the feelings of pleasure that many drugs provide or to enhance performance or creativity. Other people develop addictions as an attempt to self-medicate for depression, chronic pain, and other problems. If people begin noticing that certain drugs or alcohol cures one of these problems or helps them perform better in a given area, they are more likely to continue desiring that effect and using the substance. Over time, repeated use leads to addiction, and they are unable to quit using the intoxicant.
Long-Term Effects of Drug or Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol and drug abuse can lead to many serious long-term health problems, especially when used in large doses or in combination. Using drugs or alcohol can cause dehydration-induced seizures and damage immune systems. This increases susceptibility to infection and further complications, psychotic behavior, and serious cardiovascular conditions, including heart attacks and collapsed veins. It can also cause liver overexertion or liver failure, among other dangerous side effects.
As you can see, many factors might contribute to a person’s likelihood of developing addiction to substances, as well as many dangers and side effects involved. If you think your substance use may be turning into an addiction, or if someone you love is exhibiting behavior associated with substance abuse disorder, please contact Sage Clinic today to get the resources, care, and treatment you or your loved one needs to stop things from getting worse. Substance abuse is scary, and you should not face it alone. We care deeply about each of our patients and strive to offer the best care and addiction treatment available.
Clinical Director Therapist
Lana Reihani, LPCC, is a Clinical Mental Health Therapist, Clinical Supervisor, and Clinical Director with Sage Neuroscience Center. She is passionate about strengthening evidence-based clinical practices with radical empathy and a touch of humor, delivered with safety, equality, and diversity in mind. In her free time, Lana loves to learn, cook, find the best light for selfies, share amazing memes, and watch trashy reality TV.