Understanding Addiction: What Causes Addiction and How to Treat It

When you’re battling with addiction, it can feel like an isolating experience. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. More than 21 million Americans currently suffer from a substance abuse disorder. 

Whether you’re dealing with personal addiction or you’re looking for resources to help a loved one who is struggling, it’s helpful to understand more about what actually causes addiction. 

This guide is here to help. 

Keep reading to learn more about what causes addiction, signs that you may be dealing with addiction, and the most effective ways to treat it. 

Addiction and Your Brain

Many people tend to view addiction as a failure of willpower. However, that’s just not the case at all. 

The reality is that addiction is a disease that affects the brain. So, while you may begin to use substances like drugs and alcohol first as a conscious choice, eventually neurobiological changes can occur, causing the disease of addiction. 

Here’s how it works. 

When you partake in drug or alcohol use, it leads to a surge of dopamine being released in your brain. This can lead to feelings of euphoria, and a behavioral link begins to develop. 

When you feel euphoric after drinking alcohol, your brain recognizes that connection and starts to crave it. 

Similarly, regular use of drugs and alcohol may lead to decreased serotonin levels, which can lead to depression and anxiety.

When you experience those feelings, it reinforces the idea that drugs and alcohol can make you feel better, so you continue to use those substances. These increased dopamine levels and decreased serotonin levels can help lead to addictive behaviors.

Common Causes of Addiction

Now that you know more about what happens in your brain during substance use, you can see how someone may get the disease of addiction.

Just like you can be predisposed to other diseases, like heart disease, you can also be predisposed to suffering from addiction. Here’s a closer look at a few common causes of addiction.

Anxiety and Depression

When you suffer from anxiety and/or depression, it’s common to look for ways to help you feel better. Many people turn to drugs or alcohol, as it can provide a temporary release. 

However, this can lead to dangerous patterns. When your instinct becomes turning to drugs or alcohol when you become overwhelmed or anxious, it’s easy to rely on that as a coping mechanism. 

Over time, this can cause you to develop a serious addiction. 

Coping With Stress

Similar to what we mentioned above, many people turn to alcohol or drugs when dealing with stressful situations in life. After all, the more stressed you feel, the more you want to find an escape. 

Alcohol and drugs seem to be an easy escape, but eventually, this frequent substance use takes its toll on you and your brain. 

Negative Thinking

When you let negative thoughts take over your head, it can feel like there’s no escape. For example, if you have low self-esteem, or you feel irritable, your instincts may cause you to turn to substance use. 

Once again, this can lead to dangerous patterns in your brain, making you susceptible to the disease of addiction. 


As with many other diseases, your family history could increase your susceptibility to addiction. If you have a family history of addiction, you’re at a higher risk of suffering from this disease yourself. 

If you don’t know much about your family, it’s worth asking questions and trying to do some research to see if you may be predisposed to addiction. 

Signs of Addiction

On average, 1 in 7 Americans will face some kind of substance addiction in their lifetime. 

Are you worried that you or a loved one may be developing a dangerous addiction? If so, there are physical, emotional, and behavioral indicators to which you should pay attention. 

Physical Signs

Start by paying attention to activity levels. Is your loved one showing more signs of activity than usual or less? Either could be an indication of an addiction. 

You can also look for dilated pupils, red eyes, or excessive sniffing as signs of potential addiction. 

Emotional Signs

Many people display significant personality changes when battling addiction. This can include increased irritability and defensiveness. 

You may also notice that they’ve lost interest in things they used to care about and they start rationalizing and justifying certain behaviors. Minimizing their drug or alcohol use is also a common sign of addiction. 

Behavioral Signs

If you notice your loved one is missing out on important engagements, either socially or for work, it could be cause for concern. You also might notice they talk more about drugs or alcohol than they used to in the past. 

Or, if they become secretive about their behavior, that could also be a sign of addiction. 

Treatments for Addiction

Fortunately, there are effective treatment programs for those battling addiction. One of the most common places for treatment is drug and alcohol rehab facilities. 

Part of the treatment is committing to abstaining from substance use. But the work doesn’t stop there. Treatments can vary based on the individual’s needs.

Generally speaking, the treatment also includes learning healthy coping mechanisms.

This makes it easier for those suffering from addiction to break the negative patterns their brain is used to, in favor of different ways to cope with stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Also, keep in mind that recovery is not always linear. Addiction is powerful and relapse is a real possibility. But, with the right treatment plan, hope is possible. 

Take the First Step Toward Addiction Recovery

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, Oasis Recovery is here to help. We offer a unique approach to addiction treatment that can help you find success on your journey to a happier and healthier life. 

Contact us today to take the first step on the path to recovery.

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