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What Triggers Addiction?

A man struggling with addiction sitting outside.
Discover what factors trigger addiction and where you can find support for substance abuse.

According to a recent survey, 10 percent of adults in the United States will struggle with a drug or alcohol addiction in their lifetime. That equates to 20 million Americans battling an addiction at any given time. Once you learn this fact, it’s natural to wonder what the root triggers of addiction are.

There’s a reason we use the word “root” to describe the triggers of addiction. Like tree roots, there’s not just one trigger for this disease, and is instead caused by a vast, interconnected network of factors. In this blog, we’ll dive into some of the most prevalent reasons addiction develops.

4 Common Causes of Addiction

1. Genetics

When you’re born, you inherit 46 different chromosomes that determine the specific traits you’ll have. You have no choice in what genes you receive, and some even play a key role in whether or not you develop an addiction.

Each and every trait you have from your genes is assigned a heritability, and that heritability tells us how likely it is for that gene to influence our behavior. Current science tells us that addiction is a highly heritable trait. That means if addiction runs in your family, you’re at a higher risk of developing a substance abuse disorder. In fact, some substances have their own level of heritability. For example, cocaine’s heritability estimates can range anywhere from 42 to 79 percent.

2. Trauma

Traumatic events make it difficult for you to cope with complex emotions, driving your desire for relief from depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Sadly, it’s common to try to manage PTSD symptoms with drugs and alcohol. Many substances increase the amount of dopamine in your brain, and that initial “rush” can offer a temporary sense of relief. In the long-term, though, substance abuse only aggravates trauma symptoms.

This effect is even more prominent if you experience trauma as a child. Trauma early in life negatively impacts your ability to cope with stress. Distressing thoughts or feelings linked to past trauma can trigger an addiction, since you lack or struggle to find healthier ways to cope.

3. Mental Health

A mental health disorder can increase your risk of addiction. In fact, people with anxiety, depression or mood disorder are almost twice as likely to suffer from a drug or alcohol addiction. This is referred to as a dual diagnosis disorder, and 8.1 million Americans struggle with one.

The pressure of a mental health condition negatively impacts your impulse control and emotion regulation. For example, the fear and uncertainty caused by an anxiety disorder can be difficult to manage. The desire to find a way to cope with these feelings may lead you to engage in dangerous behaviors, such as substance abuse. Since substances only relieve mental health symptoms temporarily, the constant use can trigger a cycle of addiction.

4. Environmental Factors

Your environment also plays a role in the likelihood of suffering from an addiction. If substance abuse is normalized by friends, colleagues or your neighborhood at large, your risk of following suit and abusing alcohol or drugs increases.

Some common environmental factors that can trigger substance abuse include:

  • Peer Pressure: Friends and acquaintances can influence your alcohol or drug use.
  • Presence of drugs at home: Exposure to drugs and alcohol at home or during childhood can increase your risk of addiction.
  • Community: Some communities have higher risks of addiction due to increased crime rates or a lack of options for mental health support.

Find Hope for Lasting Recovery at The Raleigh House

The Raleigh House offers an evidence-based approach to addiction treatment. You’ll receive a customized treatment plan focused on your unique needs and designed to uncover the underlying reasons for your alcohol or drug use. No matter what the cause of your addiction is, our team can help you develop healthy coping skills and relapse-prevention techniques so you can achieve lasting recovery.

You have the potential to break free from the hold that addiction has over you. Contact our admissions team today to learn how to get started and rewrite your story following addiction.

Call Now: 720-891-4657

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