An addiction can happen to anyone. If it has happened to you or a loved one, you may be asking, “how did we get here?” The answer is different for everyone, but it may surprise you to learn that many people who struggle with addiction share similar experiences, fears, and root causes of addiction. If you’ve hit rock bottom, learn about the possible reasons why.
The Mental Or Psychological Roots Of Addiction
Addiction is a disease that has a biological effect on the brain. Yet before chemical substances can make an impact on the brain and cause dependency, the individual has to decide to start abusing drugs or alcohol. The reason to start substance abuse differs from person to person. For many, however, addiction begins as a way to cope with a mental, emotional, or psychological issue. Drugs and alcohol can provide a means of escape for someone who cannot face an underlying issue in a healthier way.
Anyone with a past trauma is at risk of developing an addiction. Risk factors such as abuse, neglect, sexual assault, and low socioeconomic status all contribute to the likelihood of someone misusing substances. Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and mental health problems can also increase the odds of addictive behaviors. Consuming drugs or alcohol is often a way for the individual to run away from whatever emotional turmoil he or she is experiencing – at least temporarily.
To overcome an addiction, it is necessary to address the underlying psychological cause that originally led to seeking solace in substances. Psychological factors such as personality disorders, sensation-seeking behaviors, impulsivity, boredom, trauma, a history of abuse, and attention deficit disorder could all be the root cause of the substance use disorder. If so, the individual needs treatment for both the addiction and the psychological issue.
A dual diagnosis is a mood disorder combined with an addiction. Having a mood disorder, such as bipolar disorder, can increase the risk of developing an addiction. Like addiction, a mood disorder is not a character flaw. It is an illness that can affect anyone, from any background. It is also something that requires treatment. If you or a loved one suffers from a mood disorder, this could explain why you turned to substances for relief.
Many people with mood disorders self-medicate to find relief for symptoms. They may turn to drugs or alcohol to self-treat depression, anxiety, or mood swings. Yet substances tend to make mood disorders worse in the long term – even if they provide short-term relief. It is important for someone with a dual diagnosis to seek treatment for both disorders, not only for addiction. Treatment must address the addiction and the underlying mood disorder for the individual to find a solution that works.
The Anatomy Of Physical Addiction
Addiction is not just a mental or psychological issue. It has a scientifically proven effect on the brain. Habit formation is physical, not just emotional. Consuming drugs or alcohol can change the cells of the brain – particularly in the reward center. A chemical process occurs in the brain that alters the reward center. Over time, instead of the brain reacting positively to things such as food, sleep, or sex, it will only react positively to the substance. This can feed an addiction.
Prolonged use of drugs or alcohol can make the brain physically dependent on the substance to function. Dependency can lead an individual to consume more and more of the substance. Eventually, the individual can build up a tolerance and need to take even more to experience the same effects. At this point, the person has developed a physical dependence or addiction. Abrupt withdrawal from the substance could then have serious health effects, including nausea, vomiting, and seizures.
Addiction can also have a biological origin. It can be hereditary within families. If you have a relative with a substance use disorder, you could be more likely to develop one. Although estimates vary, scientists say genetic factors account for about half the risk of developing an addiction. Another factor is the body’s response to stress. Other physiological factors could also cause an addiction, such as gender. Men are more likely than women to develop substance use disorders.
Addiction does not only affect low-income families, criminals, or the homeless. Anyone, from any walk of life, can become dependent on a substance. Addiction is not a behavior trait, but a disease that affects the brain. If you’re wondering how you got here, look at your mental state and how you deal with difficult situations – not necessary how you were raised or your circumstances. Prescription addiction showcases the universal nature of substance abuse.
Prescription addiction has become a national crisis in the last few years. The statistics for drug abuse and overdose deaths have skyrocketed. One of the most surprising things to come out of the prescription painkiller epidemic is the demographic of the average user. For the first time, socioeconomic status does not seem to have a role in who suffers from addiction. High-income families are falling prey to prescription addictions and losing loved ones. This proves that addiction does not discriminate.
Most people with prescription pill addictions started as average patients. They received legal prescriptions for opioids, or painkillers, from their physicians for an injury or illness. They may not have realized, however, the highly addictive nature of opioid drugs. This can lead to patients becoming physically dependent on opioids and misusing the substance to achieve the same pain-killing effects.
Unfortunately, prescription addiction can quickly lead to heroin abuse. Heroin is an opioid, just like prescription painkillers. Yet heroin can be cheaper and easier to obtain on the streets than prescription pills. Once someone’s prescription runs out, he or she may turn to heroin to feed the dependency. Using heroin puts the person at greater health risk, since many manufacturers cut the drug with unpredictable substances (including fentanyl) to save money. This can lead to accidental overdoses and related deaths.
Hiding An Addiction
Most people who struggle with drug or alcohol addictions do not come forward until they absolutely must. Instead, they choose to hide their addictions from friends, family members, and employers so they can continue to abuse the substance. In most cases, the person will not say anything until he or she has hit rock bottom. Perhaps this means losing a job, losing custody of children, getting a divorce, not being able to pay rent, or getting into a DUI accident. Only at rock bottom will the individual decide to seek help.
Feelings of fear, guilt, shame, or embarrassment may have stopped you from getting help for your addiction until now. This might be how you got to the place where you are. If so, you are not alone. You are at least researching how to get help now, and it is never too late. Others have been in your exact positions, and are now substance free. It is possible to get clean and to live a fulfilling, healthy life. Seek help from a professional no matter what led you to where you are now. A treatment center can help you or a loved one achieve long-term recovery.