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What Are The Causes Of Addiction To Drugs?


Addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), is a chronic, complex brain disorder, and is listed as such in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The Mayo Clinic explains addiction as a disease “that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medication” without regard for consequence. Addiction can wreak havoc in all areas of an individual’s life. Since the disease compels an individual to prioritize satisfying her substance cravings above all else, she will likely experience a plethora of adverse effects, including physical complications, relationship fractures, financial strain, legal challenges, employment issues, and more. Data from 2022 presented by the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, indicate that addiction affects over 20 million Americans aged 12 and over.

Risk Factors

The exact reason behind why an individual develops an addiction remains unknown. There are, however, several risk factors that have been reported to increase one’s propensity for developing substance use disorder. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) these contributing factors include:

  • Environmental: various environmental factors can increase one’s risk for developing an addiction. Normalizing drug use during one’s childhood and constant childhood exposure to drugs can raise one’s risk for addiction. Furthermore, individuals that experienced abuse, neglect, and/ or a lack of parental involvement in her childhood life can all be contributing factors to the potential development of an addiction. 
  • Genetics: studies have indicated that some individuals with a family history of addiction have a higher predisposition for developing an addiction themselves.  
  • Psychological: an individual that suffers from another mental health disorder is twice as likely to have a substance use disorder, compared to the general population. Further, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 45% of people with addiction have a co-occurring mental health disorder.
  • Age of exposure: people that were exposed to and experimented with drugs at a young age are reported to be more likely to experience mental health disorders as well as develop an addiction. 
  • Drug of choice: the type of substance abused, especially those with highly addictive qualities (e.g., heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, etc.), can partially contribute to the development of an addiction. 
  • Drug delivery method: different methods of delivery such as smoking, injecting, or snorting, largely influence how quickly a drug reaches the brain. Research has shown that the faster a drug reaches the brain, the more likely it is to be addicting. 

Every individual is different and will have or lack various predispositions that can contribute to developing an addiction. However, addiction is a disease that does not discriminated, as anyone can develop substance used disorder, regardless of social status, beliefs, or background. 

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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