We Have Beds Available! Call for Same Day Admission.855-722-6926
We Have Beds Available! Call For Same Day Admission. 855-722-6926

What Is the Cause of Addiction? 

how addiction happens

What is the cause of addiction? The answer isn’t that simple. Addiction is a disease of the brain, and it involves both physical and psychological aspects.

Drug and alcohol abuse leads to a manipulated sense of pleasure and the person’s continuous return to the source despite its impact. Once a person has developed a physical and mental dependence on a substance, it’s usually difficult for them to quit without help. Understanding how addiction happens requires you to view it as a chronic disease and not as a person’s choice or personal failure. 

Severe addictions result from continuous drug or alcohol abuse. Our residential rehab in Texas is most beneficial for people with severe addictions because it separates them from outside distractions and temptations, helping them focus on recovering. 

How Does Addiction Affect the Brain? 

Addiction is both physical and psychological. A substance use disorder (addiction) is a mental disorder that impacts a person’s brain and behavior and is marked by the inability to control their use of a substance, such as drugs or alcohol. Addiction can be severe enough to interfere with every area of a person’s life, including their family, relationships, job, finances, and physical health.  

An addiction to drugs or alcohol usually starts with substance abuse as a coping mechanism. People might start drinking more heavily or using drugs to cope with stress or a difficult situation. Many are also peer pressured into engaging in substance abuse, which can lead to continued drug-taking behaviors.  

Substances such as opioids (painkillers), sedatives (benzodiazepines and barbiturates), and alcohol are among the most addictive and commonly abused substances in the nation. Illicit substances such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine are also highly addictive.  

Each of these substances produces a particular type of “high.” For instance, while opioids may produce a sedative form of euphoria, cocaine is known for producing an energetic form of euphoria. These side effects are the result of the substance’s chemical impact on the brain. 

When it comes to opioids and amphetamines, chemicals linked to mood and other functions like dopamine are elevated, contributing to an overall sense of well-being and pleasure. Other substances like benzos and alcohol tend to elevate the chemical GABA, which inhibits nerve activity and causes sedation and drowsiness.  

While the high is the instigator, the chemical change in the brain is what truly keeps addicts hooked. The longer the individual drinks or does drugs, the more their brain adapts to these substances and eventually needs them to feel normal. At this point, if the person stops using these substances, they’ll experience uncomfortable symptoms known as withdrawals. To counteract these symptoms, addicts will continue to use or drink, furthering the cycle.  

What Is the Root Cause of Addiction? 

The root cause of addiction is tied to the pleasure principle, which is a concept introduced by Sigmund Freud that claims people instinctively seek pleasure and avoid pain to satisfy biological and psychological needs. The brain registers all forms of pleasure in the same way, whether it originates from a sexual encounter or a drug.  

Pleasure in the brain is caused by an increase in dopamine in an area of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, resulting in feelings of euphoria and a sense of well-being. Because dopamine release is tightly linked to this area of the brain, scientists tend to refer to it as the brain’s pleasure center. 

Whether a person becomes addicted to a particular substance and how quickly they develop this addiction depends on its impact on dopamine release. Simply put, the quicker a particular substance produces dopamine, and the more dopamine it produces, the more addictive it is.  

That’s why certain drugs are more addictive than others and can produce addiction quicker than others. The speed at which dopamine is produced and the intensity of that release can also be affected by how that drug is ingested. 

The word addiction is a derivative of the Latin terms for “enslaved by” or “bound to.” Those who have struggled with addiction can understand the relevance of these terms. The cause of addiction can't be narrowed down to one thing. Rather, various factors can contribute to a substance use disorder.  

The root causes of addiction can be summed down to these three: 

  • Craving for the substance in question 
  • Loss of control over its use 
  • Continuing use of this substance despite its mental and physical side effects 

How addiction occurs is also related to dopamine’s role in learning and memory. Nowadays, addiction is believed to be a result of dopamine interaction with a neurotransmitter called glutamate, which takes control over reward-related learning in the brain. This system in the brain connects activities related to human survival, like eating, to pleasure. Addictive substances like drugs and alcohol stimulate this area of the brain, activating motivation and pleasure as well as memory regarding the substance and its effects. 

How to Break an Addiction 

Chronic substance abuse can have deadly repercussions, including physical and mental health effects, relationship problems, unemployment, debt, and more. However, if addiction were easy to break free from, everyone would’ve done it by now.  

Considering the many challenges that come with recovery, the best way to break an addiction is to get treatment from a professional rehab center. Our Texas recovery center offers a multitude of drug and alcohol treatment programs that address both the physical and psychological aspects of dependence.  

Usually, patients will start their treatment with a medically monitored detox. During detox, clients receive medical support and medication – as needed – to safely heal from withdrawal symptoms. This is a crucial step in the recovery process as it offers a safe space where clients can heal and decreases the risk of relapse.  

Following detox, clients will be transitioned into a substance-specific program that offers therapy, group support, and more. This portion of care is designed to teach clients how to adjust to sobriety and sustain it after rehab. 

Admitting addiction can be difficult, but recovery is possible. If you’re struggling with this disease or know someone who is, please call Banyan Treatment Centers at 888-280-4763 to learn how our Texas drug and alcohol treatment can help. 


Related Reading:  

The History of Addiction Treatment and Rehab 

Opioid Addiction in the Elderly 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.