Understanding the Reasons People Abuse Drugs or Alcohol

Addiction alters a person’s brain functioning to the point where they experience strong or irresistible cravings for the substance or behavior. The addictive behaviors can quickly become escalated to the point where the person has no more control over the situation, and millions of lives are wrecked each year.

Understanding what makes some people more susceptible to substance abuse or addictive behaviors is becoming even more important as new addictions continue to emerge; there is also a continued need to learn more about why people choose to remain in their addiction.

One widely recognized reason people begin to abuse drugs is genetic. They may have a family history of addiction and be predisposed to the behavior. For others, addiction occurs when the person is working through other disorders, such as mental illness or depression, or an inability to deal with stress. Some try to find relief from the physical pain of a disease through drugs and end up addicted. Teens often succumb to pressure from friends or a desire to fit in, beginning an addiction with lifelong consequences.

As a person’s addiction grows, so does their ability to tolerate the substance, leading to a desire for increased amounts to achieve the same good feelings. As they become trapped in the addictive cycle, their fear of living without the substance grows and they may not seek professional help. There is also a shame factor involved. It is painful to admit when a person has lost control over their use of a substance, and there may be stereotypes or stigmas attached that make them more likely to stay in the addiction.

Looking at the source of the problem, like psychological illness, can also be effective. For many alcoholics or drug addicts, there is a simultaneous occurrence of depression, anxiety disorder or even personality disorders. A course of treatment involving counseling and/or medication may need to be in place long-term for this type of addict.

Knowing a person’s family history toward dependence on drugs or alcohol can also be an effective step in warding off addiction. If a person does have a family history of addiction, they may be exposed to people who continue to repeat the negative behavior, and so an alternate plan for separating from these situations may be needed.

Maintaining clear priorities and an overall sense of balance can also be a deterrent to addiction, as many people fall into drug or alcohol abuse when their life direction seems to be undesired or out of control. Not having an escape route for stress can contribute to substance abuse. Similarly, for teens, a prepared plan of action may be needed to help them refuse the substance before it is presented.

What many addicts may not realize is that willpower or determination alone is not enough to stop the stronghold. Addiction or substance dependence is rooted in both psychological and physical factors, and usually cannot be remedied without professional help and support from several levels.

Another tough reality of addiction is that it could be a lifelong problem, cycling through bouts of abstinence, relapse and recovery. Cravings can emerge seemingly without warning. In addition, the person’s brain functioning has been altered, and so their judgment remains impaired to the point of being unable to see the ramifications of giving in to cravings.