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.