Addiction is hallmarked by problematic substance use that significantly impairs daily functioning. Common characteristics of individuals addicted to drugs and alcohol include the following:
Negative Thoughts and Feelings
Intoxicating substances serve a purpose for those who are looking to minimize pain and maximize pleasure. People who become addicted often start because of negative thoughts and feelings related to depression, loneliness, discomfort, anxiety, and restlessness.
Preoccupation With Using
Addiction is associated with spending a vast amount of time thinking about, obtaining, and recovering from the use of drugs or alcohol. Individuals who abuse substances experience intense drug cravings and find it challenging to quell their urges.
Feeling Out of Control
As addiction gets worse, users may feel that they are losing control over their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. People with an addiction often report feeling unable to abstain from actively engaging in drug use.
Using Despite Adverse Consequences
A fundamental feature of addiction is also the continual use of drugs and alcohol despite adverse consequences, such as social, health, legal, and financial issues. Users may feel unable to quit despite addiction’s negative impact on multiple areas of their lives.
Causes of Addiction
Addiction is usually the result of a complicated interaction involving several factors, including an individual’s genetics and environmental influences. Two people may be dependent on the same substance, yet have very different reasons for using.
Heredity is the process of two parents passing on genetic traits to their child at birth. Children receive 46 chromosomes that contain thousands of genes from their parents. Genes are responsible for the specific traits that a child will have, including the following:
Physical traits – determine a person’s appearance, such as eye and hair color
Behavioral traits – influence the way a person acts, such as whether they are highly social or withdrawn
Predisposition to medical conditions – may increase a person’s risk of developing a disease, such as cancer
Although genes play a significant role in defining an individual’s traits, environmental factors can also have an impact and alter them. Addiction is considered moderately to highly heritable, meaning that genetics plays a significant role in a person’s susceptibility to addiction. In other words, people who have close relatives with substance abuse problems are at a heightened risk of developing an addiction themselves.
Environmental Factors That Influence Addiction
A person’s environment, or the people, places, things, and events that he or she is exposed to can also affect whether or not dependence or addiction develops. Aspects of an individual’s environment that may play a key role in facilitating addiction include the following:
Peer and Social Pressure – Friends are significant in adolescents’ lives. Peers may expose adolescents to drugs or alcohol and also influence their beliefs on what type of behavior is acceptable.
Poor Parental Supervision – Parents who fail to supervise their children or monitor their behavior and provide structure and discipline are at a higher risk of addiction.
Parental Substance Use or Criminal Activity – Children of parents who use substances and are involved in criminal activity are at risk of experimenting with and becoming addicted to substances. Some parents even introduce children to drugs or alcohol, model negative behaviors, and create environments that increase drama and stress.
Presence of Substances at Home or School – Early exposure to drugs or alcohol provides children with the opportunity to experiment, which can possibly lead to dependence and addiction.
Living in a Poor Community – Neighborhood poverty has been heavily associated with addiction. This link may relate to the stress that poverty causes and the limited opportunities for escape or change.
While environmental factors can place a child at risk of substance abuse, certain protective factors can decrease addiction risk. Children who grow up with reliable parental support, positive and fulfilling relationships, a sense of community, anti-drug education policies at school, and are able to develop good decision-making skills, and self-control may be protected from many of the risk factors related to addiction.
Childhood experiences, whether positive and negative, can have a dramatic impact on an individual’s physical and emotional well-being. Adverse childhood events can be stressful, traumatic experiences that may result in physical and emotional challenges.
Examples of adverse childhood experiences include the following:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Verbal or emotional abuse
- Physical or emotional neglect
- Witnessing violence
- Having a family member with mental health issues
- Having a family member who is incarcerated
- Having a family member addicted to substances
- Parental separation or divorce
Each adverse childhood event increases the risk of earlier drug abuse among adolescents and later problems with addiction.
In some instances, trauma can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can occur after an individual witnesses or experiences a dangerous or shocking event. Signs of PTSD include the following:
- Nightmares and sleep disturbances
- Flashbacks of the event
- Frightening thoughts
- Avoiding reminders of the event
- Feeling guilty, ashamed, sad, or worried
- Being easily startled
- Feeling restless or tense
- Increased conflict or anger toward loved ones
- Memory impairments
- Adverse thoughts about oneself or others
- Feelings of blame and criticism
- Lack of interest in hobbies once enjoyed
Studies have found that 60%-80% of individuals with PTSD also have substance abuse problems. People who suffer from PTSD may use drugs and alcohol as a means to cope with stress or to mitigate symptoms like anxiety, depression, irritability, and restlessness. Drugs and alcohol ultimately do not mitigate PTSD symptoms and can actually exacerbate them.
Fortunately, treating PTSD can decrease the likelihood of developing an addiction. Trauma-informed care may involve medications, counseling, and support groups, as well as individual, group, and family therapy.
There is a strong link between an individual’s mental health status and addiction. People who experience an anxiety or mood disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder, are twice as likely also to have a substance use disorder. Those children with conduct disorder or antisocial personality disorder also have an increased risk of addiction.
A person can be diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis when both a mental health condition and addiction are present, and this is a very common occurrence. Both addiction and mental illnesses are affected by many of the same factors, including genetics, history of trauma, and the environment. In some cases, people may use drugs or alcohol as a method of self-medication to cope with mental health problems.
Common co-occurring disorders include the following:
- Mood disorders, such as major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder
- Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder
- Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) or Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Personality disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder
- Psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder
Getting Help For Addiction
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers offer a comprehensive approach to the treatment of addiction. Our programs also address the many factors that lead to and exacerbate substance abuse, including childhood trauma and co-occurring medical and mental health disorders. We offer evidence-based services essential for recovery, including psychotherapy, family counseling, group therapy, aftercare planning, and much more.
If you or someone you love is struggling to overcome a dependence on drugs or alcohol, we urge you to contact us today! Find out how we help those who need is most achieve abstinence and break free from the vicious cycle of addiction for life!