Understanding the Root Causes of Addiction

Addiction devastates lives. It damages your physical wellness and wreaks havoc on your mental health. It destroys relationships and careers. Dealing with the effects of addiction can be traumatic. However, in many cases, trauma, mental health disorders and relationship troubles precede substance abuse. Understanding the root causes of addiction helps you get to the source of the problem and treat it appropriately.

Get Help Now

Call our admissions specialists who can help you find the best treatment center for your needs. If you need help with drug abuse or addiction recovery, we can help you.

(888) 530-9424

Do Drugs Cause Addiction?

Some substances are highly addictive. In fact, you have probably heard that you can get hooked on certain drugs after a single use.

That may be true in some circumstances. However, addiction is like the tip of an iceberg. When you investigate below the surface, you typically reveal other problems that must be addressed.

You have probably heard stories about people who become dependent on painkillers after they were prescribed after a surgery. Taking pills to help you sleep can create a slippery slope that culminates in addiction. Even in these instances, however, the medical condition that necessitated the surgery or the insomnia needs to be healed. Finding other ways of coping with your struggles is one of the keys to combating addiction.

Recreational drug use can lead to addiction. Experimentation can incite more frequent use. Regular use and misuse create dependence. Once your body is used to the effects of a drug, chemical changes make quitting difficult.

But it’s important to explore the reasons that you were compelled to use substances in the first place. Did a need for validation make you susceptible to peer pressure? Are you regularly exposed to an unhealthy environment in which drug use is encouraged? Were you bored and looking for a source of fulfillment?

If your drug use has become problematic, you might want to dig into these questions. Raising your self-awareness allows you to eliminate unhealthy patterns and work toward wellness.

The Root Causes of Addiction

The root causes of addiction are unique for everyone. However, the following factors are often present for individuals who struggle with addiction.


Trauma is one of the most common causes of addiction. Many people don’t realize that a traumatic event doesn’t necessarily have to look like a big deal from the outside. For some, trauma occurred from losing a loved one, getting in a major accident or suffering abuse. However, for others, trauma can occur from being shamed by parents or embarrassed by friends at school.

The event doesn’t cause the trauma; the way that your central nervous system responds to the incident does. If your biological system detects a threat, it responds by throwing you into survival mode. You shift into a mode in which you become ready to fight, flee or freeze to protect yourself from the danger.

When the threat has passed, your central nervous system begins to regulate itself. It calms the stress hormones and discharges the activated energy so that you can return to life as normal.

This process can be involved in wild animals. In fact, playing dead is an example of this type of central nervous system activation. When the danger is gone, an animal will go through a series of processes, such as orienting themselves in their environment and shaking their bodies, to complete the cycle of activation.

But this isn’t always possible in humans. Your social nature and capacity for complex thinking get in the way. You might not be able to take time alone when you feel uncomfortable after a distressing event. You may live out the experience repeatedly through your thoughts. When that happens, you don’t complete the activation circuit, and your trauma gets trapped in your body and brain.

This is especially problematic when it happens in early childhood, while your brain is still developing. Early trauma disrupts your cognitive functioning and natural coping mechanisms. Even if you experience trauma as an adult, you may find it difficult to handle the aftermath. This often leads to other ways of coping, such as using substances.

Your Core Needs Aren’t Being Met

One of the biggest causes of addiction is isolation. Social connection is a core human need. If you don’t have healthy relationships or feel unsupported by others, you are more likely to use drugs.

A series of studies that began in the 1970s found that rats were more likely to seek out drugs when they are alone. When they were in an environment that allowed them to interact with other rats, participate in stimulating activities and move around freely, they chose to drink fresh water instead of water that was laced with drugs. If they were isolated, however, they overdosed.

Therefore, focusing on creating fulfilling relationships with others can help you stay sober in recovery. Love and support go a long way in preventing substance abuse and addiction.

Your likelihood of developing an addiction also increases when the following core needs aren’t met:

  • Security
  • Approval
  • Control
  • Self-love
  • Autonomy
  • Intimacy
  • Self-esteem

Drugs are a false substitute for these unmet needs. They often provide a way to escape the pain that arises when your core emotional and psychological requirements aren’t fulfilled.

Mental Health Conditions

Approximately 50% of people with mental illness will experience substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives. Psychological conditions can impair your cognitive functioning and central nervous system regulation.

Some of the most common mental illnesses that increase the risk of substance abuse include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and ADHD. People with high levels of stress who haven’t been diagnosed with a mental illness also have a propensity for addiction. People with these issues often self-medicate with drugs. If you have a dual diagnosis of a mental illness and addiction, it’s essential to treat both conditions.

Addressing the Root of Addiction

Your environment and genetics also play a role in your predisposition to addiction. Although you may not be able to control these factors, you can learn more about the way that they influence substance abuse. At an addiction treatment center like Burning Tree West, you’ll gain more awareness about the roots of your addiction so that you can heal your wounds and meet your needs. Recognizing and treating the origins of the addiction help you achieve lasting recovery.

Get Help Now

Call our admissions specialists who can help you find the best treatment center for your needs. If you need help with drug abuse or addiction recovery, we can help you.

(888) 530-9424