Drug and alcohol addiction continues to be a serious problem in the United States. In fact, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people have been struggling to find help for their substance use disorders and are left feeling lost. And for veterans who face unique challenges, finding help can be even harder.
If you are one of these people who has been affected by addiction, you might have a million questions. How does addiction develop? And what are the causes of addiction? In this article, we’ll look into five of the different causes of addiction so that you can understand the risks and know what the next steps are that you might need to take.
Causes of Addiction
Keep in mind that addiction does not happen overnight, and it is not something that can always be easily explained. Typically, addiction is caused by several factors. However, if any of these root causes of addiction look familiar to you, consider reaching out to a mental health professional for more guidance on your personal journey toward recovery.
1. Family History
Family history is one of the most influential causes of addiction. Addiction is a genetic disorder that can be passed down from one generation to the next. While it’s not clear by what mechanism addiction is passed on, many people in recovery observe that addiction seems to “run in the family.”
It’s important to note that having a family history of substance abuse doesn’t guarantee that you will also struggle with addiction. However, it does increase the risk, especially if you have any of the other root causes of addiction that follow below.
2. Environment and Upbringing
If you were brought up in an environment where family members or friends frequently used drugs, alcohol, or other addictive substances, you might find it more challenging to see the seriousness of your own situation. Many dangerous behaviors may feel normal if you regularly observed them during childhood. This is especially true when addiction runs in your family. If you have people around you who are also struggling with addiction, it becomes much more difficult to resist alcohol and drug cravings.
This is also why it is important to find sober buddies through your treatment program. When you surround yourself with people who truly understand how challenging addiction can be, you are more likely to practice the skills required to stay on the path of recovery.
3. Traumatic Experiences
Another leading cause of addiction is experiencing trauma. When an individual experiences something traumatic, it can be difficult for the pain to process these new, negative feelings. For that reason, going through traumatic experiences leads many people to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol because they aren’t sure how to cope with the uncomfortable emotions that come after trauma. When trauma is not addressed in a healthy way, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often the result.
The most pressing symptoms of PTSD include:
- Having periods of panic caused by triggers
- Avoiding certain situations or environments that could act as triggers
- Experiencing flashbacks or recurring nightmares of the trauma
- Turning to drugs or alcohol to numb the painful memories
Unfortunately, this last symptom is one of the most alarming characteristics of addiction and gets us into the next cause of substance abuse: untreated mental health disorders.
4. Untreated Mental Health Disorders
Mental health and addiction are closely linked. Studies show that approximately 50 percent of people who have a mental health condition (anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc.) also have a substance use disorder. The reality is that untreated mental health conditions leave people unable to cope with the symptoms in healthy ways and instead they look to alcohol or drugs for a temporary fix.
Moreover, one of the effects of alcohol and drug addiction is that it actually causes more severe mental health symptoms. This shows that having untreated mental health disorders alongside addiction is a vicious cycle that will continue to loop unless you receive intensive treatment for all ailments.
5. Being Part of a Susceptible Population
Finally, one of the most surprising causes of substance abuse is that people who are in susceptible demographics are often at a much higher risk. Veterans fall into this at-risk category, with about one in 15 veterans struggling with addiction at some point in their lives.
Veterans are at an increased risk of developing a drug and alcohol addiction when they face combat exposure, military sexual trauma, service injuries, and PTSD. Military personnel also have a hard time returning to civilian life after active duty, which can cause financial hardships and strain on personal relationships.
It’s true that being a veteran is one of the causes of alcohol and drug addiction, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. There are specific alcohol and drug addiction treatment facilities that are equipped to help veterans find their footing once again.
Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Understanding and treating the causes of addiction requires you to look at the whole puzzle rather than just a piece of it. This is why, at Heroes’ Mile, we look at your overall experiences from your past history, to any traumatic situations you might have encountered while you served as well as your current symptoms. Once we are able to get to know you, we will help to put together a treatment plan that is unique to your specific recovery needs.
While in treatment at Heroes’ Mile, you will have the opportunity to participate in:
- Safe detox
- Veteran-focused therapy
- Group sessions
- Family counseling
- Emotional sobriety skill building
- Job preparedness lessons
If the causes of addiction that we addressed in this article sound familiar to you, you might very well be at risk or even require treatment now. But a healthier future is right around the corner. Don’t wait—call 888-838-6692 or fill out a confidential contact form to start your journey toward recovery today.
People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol might act out in ways that they normally wouldn’t. Some examples of addictive behavior include lying about or hiding the addiction, engaging in risky situations (such as driving under the influence), and putting the addictive substance before other people. Addictive behavior is often uncontrollable, but it is treatable with the right kind of help.
Diseases are things that stop an organism from being healthy and functioning as normal. Just like any other disease, drug addiction is something that only gets worse as time progresses. Unfortunately, drug addiction often leads to worsening mental health symptoms, physical deterioration, and even death when it goes untreated.
There is no one sole cause of addiction to drugs or alcohol. Anybody can develop the symptoms of a substance use disorder, but some people are more prone to addiction than others. A combination of genetics, life experiences, and existence of co-occurring disorders can put people at an even higher risk of struggling with addiction.