Why Addiction Happens

why addiction happens

Addiction is somewhat of an enigmatic thing. There’s not one root cause of it for everyone. The uniqueness of what we see in nature and people is mirrored in the myriad of reasons why addiction can grab hold of someone so tightly.

A couple of things that aren’t causes are just purely bad decisions or inherent character flaws. That’s too simplified of a view and ultimately too easy. That type of view only takes into account the surface level of addiction.

Addiction runs deeper than that.

What Is Addiction?

The American Society of Addiction Medicine provides a thorough definition:

“Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences”.

And, importantly they go on, “prevention efforts and treatment approaches for addiction are generally as successful as those for other chronic diseases”.

You can see from that definition that some of the complexities of addiction are already being teased out. That the narrow view of, “hey, bad choices” doesn’t take a holistic view of the person.

Why Do Some People Get Addicted to Drugs or Alcohol

Let’s break it down further and more in-depth, jumping off from the ASAM description.

Brain Circuitry

Drugs essentially toy with the wiring of our brains. As per the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Drugs interfere with the way neurons send, receive, and process signals via neurotransmitters…Although these drugs mimic the brain’s own chemicals, they don’t activate neurons in the same way as a natural neurotransmitter, and they lead to abnormal messages being sent through the network”.

Each drug messes with that network in a different way and with varying intensity.

The dopamine and endorphins that drugs release create and reinforce the pleasure a user experiences and helps bolster the addiction.

Environmental Factors

The nurture part of nature vs nurture, the environment in which someone lives and breathes can have a profound effect on the chances that addiction touches their lives. This is where things like home, school and work-life play a role.

If the situation at home is unstable and volatile, bullying is happening at school, stress levels are high at work, any type of abuse is happening and beyond. You can begin to see the difficulty of dealing with such a chaotic environment. Add to that friend groups who are pulling you down the wrong path or simply just socioeconomic status.

Drugs and alcohol can become coping mechanisms to deal with what life throws at you.

Biological Factors

This is the flip side, the nature part. What you’re born with. There’s a genetic component to addiction and it’s not insignificant.

Going back to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and a pretty mind-blowing finding, “family studies that include identical twins, fraternal twins, adoptees, and siblings suggest that as much as half of a person’s risk of becoming addicted to nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs depends on his or her genetic makeup”.


Half of the risk comes from factors completely out of anyone’s control: our genetic makeup.

Knowing is half the battle though. Armed with this sort of knowledge, “physicians might soon be able to incorporate genetic tests in their practice, allowing them to better match specific treatments to individuals”, according to the American Psychological Association.

Sobriety Is Possible With Star Recovery Center

The reasons why addiction happens are complex but what to do if you or a loved one is suffering from addiction doesn’t have to be. At Star Recovery Center we welcome the unique challenges and difficulties that led you to addiction and work with you to unravel them and get you recovered. Reach out and let’s start.

Establishing the Signs of Drug Withdrawal

drug withdrawal signs

Withdrawal is one of the toughest things a user or drinker must go through on their quest for sobriety. It’s something that wreaks havoc on the body as well as the mind and can get so bad that it makes an addict question if getting clean is worth the suffering.

That’s a testament to the power of these substances and how much they mess with the wiring of our systems. Knowing what withdrawal looks like from various substances can help you or your loved one get through it.

Withdrawal happens very shortly after you stop taking a substance. Even something as innocuous as skipping that standard coffee in the morning can lead to headaches in the afternoon.

Why Do Drug Withdrawals Occur?

Continual and persistent drug or alcohol use really does alter the circuitry of how our minds work. Constant abuse leads to increased cravings and ultimately a dependency on those chemicals to get through the day. Our minds and bodies yearn for the drugs or alcohol, scream for them in fact, which is why getting a drink or a hit starts to become priority number one for an addict.

This is also why withdrawals occur.

The brain simply gets used to the presence of a particular substance, as does the body. Your sense of normal is built on it and when you abruptly cut the supply, your body and mind react strongly to the break in that flow. The intensity of that reaction, of that withdrawal, and how long it lasts is dependent on the substance you were using.

Signs of Drug Withdrawal

Broadly speaking, some signs of withdrawal happen commonly across all types of drugs. Things like: changes in appetite and mood, nausea, fatigue, irritability, difficulties sleeping, sweating and vomiting are generally part of the experience of withdrawal.

There are however signs of withdrawal that are more specific to certain drugs and alcohol (please note this isn’t a comprehensive list):


Withdrawal from drinking comes with insomnia, anxiety and agitation.

Lighter drinkers are less likely to go through intense withdrawal but heavy drinkers are at a vastly increased risk of developing a serious form of withdrawal called delirium tremens (DT) which manifests in shaking, confusion and hallucinations. DTs are extremely severe and potentially fatal.


Opioids are exceptionally addictive so dependence can happen quickly. Withdrawal is characterized by increased anxiety, sweating, muscle and body aches, diarrhea and general flu-like symptoms. Medical detox is commonly used to mitigate the symptoms.



Another highly addictive substance, cocaine’s withdrawal signs are much more psychologically based than physical. After someone stops using, they become more depressed and irritable. They can have hallucinations, psychotic episodes and be in a constant state of tiredness.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

In addition to the immediate effects that withdrawal has on an addict, it’s important to keep in mind that that isn’t necessarily the end of the withdrawal process.

Acute withdrawal is the initial phase in which the aforementioned signs and symptoms happen and a lot of it is related to the physical recalibration of the body. Post-acute withdrawal is experienced psychologically, in the mind, and can happen weeks, or even months, after the last trace of drugs or alcohol have left the body. This is essentially part of the process of your mind dealing with the changes from substance abuse and can come and go. 

How to Get Help With Drug Addiction

The best odds for beating addiction are when you or your loved one seeks outside help from professionals. Withdrawal can be dangerous when dealt with alone and detoxing is only part of the equation. Lasting sobriety is much more likely to be realized by committing to a thoughtful and holistic recovery program. That’s just part of what we offer at Star Recovery Center, give us a call if you need more information on withdrawal.