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Understanding the root causes of drug addiction

When we think about drug addiction, we focus on the legal aspects of it—the crimes and punishments associated with drugs.

However, most resources do not shed enough light on the root causes of addiction—what makes it tick, what science says about its causes and what we can do to help people who struggle with drug addiction.

What causes drug addiction?

As with most things, the answer to what causes drug addiction is not simple. Addiction itself is like a puzzle and it is never one-size-fits-all. There are various contributing factors to addiction, including:


Some people have a genetic predisposition to addiction, meaning that it can run in families. It is like inheriting a trait. Here, addiction can be that trait.


The world and our environment play a big role in the outcome of our lives. Significant stress, trauma and easy access to drugs can easily result in any individual slipping into addiction.

Mental health

Sometimes, mental health challenges are at play. Conditions like anxiety or depression can make someone (although not everyone) more prone to addiction. It is an extra layer of difficulty to navigate.

Peer pressure

Especially in younger crowds or environments where drugs are everywhere, the people who surround you can have an enormous impact on your actions, whether or not you are conscious of it.

Can we prevent drug addiction?

Prevention is possible, according to science. Tools that are useful in preventing drug addiction include:

  • Education
  • Strong support systems
  • Mental health awareness
  • Mental health support
  • Emotional support
  • Healthy coping mechanisms

Understanding drug addiction is the most important way to prevent it. If we understand the many layers underneath, we can acknowledge that it is not simply destructive behavior—it goes well beyond that.

Understanding leads to better outcomes

Once people understand the mechanics of addiction, they can adopt a supportive and compassionate approach toward those who suffer from it and offer them the help that they so desperately need.

Addiction is complex and here’s something to remember: the more risk factors a person has, the more likely they will develop an addiction. There are many people who have mental illnesses who do not suffer from addiction.

However, when someone experiences significant trauma, has a vulnerability to addiction, uses unhealthy ways to cope, faces pressure from negative influences, and lacks strong support systems, it can create a dangerous situation that can lead to addiction, criminal behavior and even loss of life.



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