Root cause of addiction - All addiction stems from a root cause, making the addiction impossible to overcome unless that cause is treated as well. There can be many different root causes that the addiction is a symptom of and all need to be treated with compassion and care. When someone is suffering from addiction it can be a very dark and lonely time for them. Not only because of the addiction they are suffering, but because of the pain of the underlying causes.

An addiction can stem from:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Schizophrenia

If any one of these symptoms has been left undiagnosed it could lead to substance abuse as a means of trying to make themselves feel better. Another reason is the feeling of wanting to become “numb”. Drugs and alcohol offer an irresistible euphoric feeling, and for someone who is suffering from depression, this can be seen as helpful to them. However, drugs and alcohol only exacerbate existing mental health disorders in the long run. In addition, people may be on medication for their mental health disorder with the best of intentions of getting relief from their symptoms. However, because of the addictive nature of some of these medications, people may accidentally slip into addiction. Without the close supervision of medical professionals and therapists, addiction is very likely.

Dual Diagnosis - When someone is suffering from a co-occurring mental health disorder, they will need to receive dual diagnosis treatment. This is treatment that addresses both the addiction and the underlying mental health issue together, so that one does not go untreated and ultimately exacerbates the other later.

Family History - Having a family history of addiction is another one of the major underlying causes of addiction. If you have members of your family that have suffered from addiction, especially your parents, then the likelihood you will suffer from addiction skyrockets. Growing up in an environment with substance abuse around is normalised, which makes children of addicts are more inclined to try it out. They grew up in an environment where substance abuse was likely chosen over caring for and spending time with the child, making the child often wonder what was so “great” about the substances. In addition, if they see a parent or family member stressed out or in a bad place and turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping method, children will learn this. They see negative coping methods and learn them and are very likely to use these same coping methods as well. Even if the child grows up knowing that substance abuse is bad and their relationship with their parent has suffered because of it, they have already been predisposed to becoming a person with substance use disorder themselves and are likely to go that route.

History of Trauma - When someone experiences a traumatic event, many issues can stem from it. One of which can include addiction. A traumatic event that could be one of the underlying causes of addiction may include:

  • Military service
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Verbal abuse
  • Death of a loved one
  • Loss of relationship, such as divorce
  • Volatile childhood environment

In an effort to cope with negative memories, thoughts, feelings and anxieties associated with a traumatic event, many people turn to substance abuse. They receive a brief euphoric feeling and are able to forget about it for a few moments – only to have them come back tenfold. If someone receives addiction treatment and does not treat the negative thoughts and feelings associated with their trauma, then their addiction will eventually come back around and the cycle will begin again. 

Self-Esteem Issues - Many people suffering from self-esteem issues will turn to substance abuse to cope with the different feelings related to their self image. People who are suffering from gender or sexual identity issues have a hard time coming to terms with their authentic selves, due to the stigma surrounding it. They might want to suppress their feelings and forget about them instead of dealing with them, and substance abuse is often chosen as a means to do so. In addition, people who are suffering from self-esteem issues may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to “fit in” with their peers. They may find that they are more outgoing while drunk or high, allowing them to have confidence to talk to people that they normally wouldn’t. Perhaps they are more well-liked when they purchase drugs or alcohol for people and keep up with that in order to be liked. Self-esteem issues can be overcome with therapy and healthy coping skills; it doesn’t have to be through drugs and alcohol.

Addiction is an adaptive response - Under normal circumstances, humans are very good at adapting to new surroundings. We often feel overwhelmed at first, but then quickly settle into our new situation. If we are struggling with difficult things at work or at home, we find ways to cope with those feelings and issues. For some people, however, adaptation is not so easily achieved and people look outside of themselves for ways to cope with their work or home life. According to some experts those who become addicted report that there is a deficient brain-reward system that occurs, which can feed into the adaptive response that we normally experience and so turn it into a vicious cycle.

Even without suffering from an addiction it’s easy to see how a deficient brain-reward system can cause someone to become addicted to drugs, alcohol, sex, shoplifting, or a whole host of problems that may occur. it gives them “the high” they are chasing so that when something  feels good, even for a few minutes they will want more of it.

Love and purpose - Most often it is love that the person is looking for. In the brain of someone who is not addicted they feel the “reward” of opiate-like neurotransmitters when receiving affection from a loved one. They also get “the high” from things that happen in everyday life that they love doing as well as having a sense of purpose. However, in the brain of someone who is addicted, some people have less of these neurotransmitters or experience a faulty system of releasing these chemical resources. To adjust to this internal deficiency, the addict may use a substance such as heroin to regulate their emotions in an attempt to find inner balance. Of course, someone who is addicted doesn’t realise that this is what is taking place neurologically and so It becomes an automatic response. If they feel negative emotions or have negative thoughts, they are likely to reach for the drugs or alcohol to rid themselves of that feeling.

Negative reinforcement can cause addiction in people - The positive “reward” system that drug or alcohol use provides people is often thought to be the main reason people use them to the point of becoming addicted. Some theories suggest that people turn to drugs or alcohol more and more often to rid themselves of the negative side effects of drug use.

When you take a hit and feel that euphoric feeling, it lasts for a little while. The withdrawal or “come down” experience, however, is much longer and often more painful for people who use illicit drugs. In order to cope with that withdrawal sensation and feel better faster, people use drugs again and again and so the cycle continues. So it’s not that they are chasing the “high”, but they are avoiding the “low”.

Without realising it, those who are addicted can find themselves constantly just trying to feel normal again. A lot of people say they drink alcohol or take drugs first thing in the morning because it gets them back to “normal”. That might be the reason in the beginning, but over time the reason can switch to avoiding pain and discomfort.

Subscription drugs - Then there are those who may decide to self-adjust their medication to have more focus or feel better. Over time, the effect of the medication becomes weakened and people turn to other illicit drugs to help them stabilise their focus.  Cocaine, for example, is known to provide an acute focus for short periods of time, but because someone say with Attention Deficit Disorder is always lacking focus, they continue to turn to the drugs to help them maintain that feeling of being in control.

Stress and fear - Research has shown that while cocaine causes euphoria, the drug also releases brain chemicals related to stress and fear. These negative feelings linger long after the euphoria fades, and the only way to treat them is to use cocaine again, resulting in a vicious cycle. We all know how stress and fear can disrupt our lives and we often can feel like we’d do anything for relief. For someone who is addicted that relief is just one more hit away and then another…

No matter what underlying causes have led to your addiction I am here to help you through it. Solving the root cause is the only way to truly overcome your addiction. Please see www.jill@jilljesson.com

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