Examining the Underlying Causes of Addiction

Addiction is an extremely complex condition that involves almost every area of your health — physical, mental, and emotional. While every path to addiction has its own unique circumstances, there are some commonalities.

At Creative Care, our team is dedicated to helping patients break the bonds of addiction, allowing them to lead happy, healthy lives long into the future.

We believe that one of the keys to battling a substance use disorder is education, which is why we’ve pulled together the following primer on what happens to your brain and your body when addiction sets in.

What is addiction?

Creative Care’s mission is to understand early experiences and underlying causes that manifest as mental health difficulties and addiction struggles throughout adulthood. We believe in approaching substance use disorders and mental health conditions with respect to current and historical aspects of the individual’s personhood, such as integrating the impact of historical traumas, understanding intricate interpersonal dynamics, and identifying mental health difficulties.

In actuality, addiction represents only one piece of the substance use disorder puzzle, which can hijack all areas of your health. Dependence is slightly different from addiction — it describes the physical reliance your body has on your substance of choice. When your drug or alcohol is taken away, your body goes into withdrawal and you display physical symptoms.

Addiction, on the other hand, is the trickier side of the equation because it involves your brain’s circuitry. When you take a drug or drink, receptors in your brain activate and release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls, among other things, your emotional state.

But as you continue to take drugs or drink, your brain rewires itself, especially your reward center, and demands more of your substance of choice. And this rewiring can turn certain areas of your brain into insatiable beasts, forcing you to take more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect, if you can achieve it at all after a certain point.

All the while, your body is building a physical dependence on your drug of choice and, emotionally, you begin to use drugs and alcohol as a crutch that you can’t discard.

The first steps toward addiction

While the above gives you a very general idea of what happens to your body and brain in the throes of a substance use disorder and addiction, the underlying causes are unique to each person.

The lead-up to alcoholism, for example, can be difficult to pin down because drinking is socially acceptable — no one bats an eye when you enter a bar and order a drink. But problematic drinking can come on the heels of everything from marriage problems to co-occurring mood disorders, such as anxiety. Self-medicating with alcohol is extremely common and one of the major drivers of alcoholism.

Opioid addiction often develops in a more insidious manner — the use of prescription painkillers. In fact, 80% of heroin users first misused painkillers and 8%-12% of those who take prescription painkillers end up with opioid addiction. This happens because the effects that opioids have on your brain’s receptors are extremely powerful, and even the strongest-willed can succumb to their influence.

These are just two examples of underlying causes of addiction, and they only scratch the surface of an incredibly wide-ranging list.

Going hand-in-hand

The incidence of co-occurring disorders when it comes to addiction is one area that bears a closer look. In any given year, one in five American adults struggles with a mental health issue, which represents a large chunk of the population. Among those who are afflicted by a substance use disorder, the incidence of a co-occurring medical illness is extremely high as people turn to drugs and alcohol for temporary relief.

Flipping the equation, one in four Americans with a serious mental illness also has a substance use disorder.

What we’re trying to illustrate with these numbers is that the connection between mood disorders like anxiety and depression and problematic drug or alcohol use is extremely common.

The road to recovery

While education plays a very important role in dealing with addiction, so, too, does finding the right treatment center that sees the entire picture. At Creative Care, we understand the many facets of a substance use disorder, and we tackle the problem from every angle for sustainable success.

If you’d like to learn more, we invite you to call one of our offices that’s convenient to you or request a call back using the online button.

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