What Are Some Factors that Cause People to Abuse Drugs?

Friday, April 14, 2023 | By Andrew Bramlett

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Drug Abuse can cause detrimental effects to an individual’s health, relationships, and overall well-being— but why do people abuse drugs in the first place? Is it purely a matter of choice or are there underlying factors at play? 

Today, we’ll dive into some of the most common reasons why individuals turn to drug use and explore how genetics, mental health, stress, trauma and environment all contribute to this growing epidemic. 

Genetics

Genetics are one of the factors that can cause people to abuse drugs. Studies have shown that there may be a genetic predisposition to addiction, which means some people may be more likely than others to become addicted.

Some researchers believe that genetics account for up to 50% of a person’s risk of developing an addiction. This is because certain genes can affect how the brain responds to drugs and alcohol.

For example, some people may have variations in their genes that make them less sensitive to the effects of drugs or alcohol. This means they need higher doses or stronger substances to feel the same high as someone without these genetic variations.

Other studies suggest that genetics can influence a person’s personality traits, such as impulsivity and sensation-seeking behavior. These traits are associated with drug abuse and addiction.

However, it’s important to note that genetics is not the only factor at play when it comes to drug abuse. Environmental factors, such as upbringing and peer pressure, also contribute significantly.

Mental Health

Mental health is a significant factor that can cause people to abuse drugs. People who struggle with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder may turn to drugs as a form of self-medication. They often use these substances to numb their negative emotions or alleviate the symptoms of their mental health conditions.

Drug abuse can worsen existing mental health problems and even trigger new ones. Substance abuse alters the brain’s chemistry, leading to changes in mood, behavior, and cognitive function. This can result in increased feelings of anxiety or paranoia, exacerbating pre-existing mental illness.

Moreover, individuals with untreated mental illnesses are more susceptible to substance addiction because they seek relief from their symptoms through drug use. The cycle becomes vicious— drug use leads to worsening mental illness which then drives further drug-seeking behavior.

It is essential for those struggling with both addiction and underlying mental illness to get treatment addressing both issues simultaneously for effective long-term recovery. 

Stress

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Stress is one of the most common factors that lead people to abuse drugs. Stress is a natural response to challenging situations, but when it becomes chronic and overwhelming, individuals may turn to drugs as a way to cope. Stress can be caused by various factors including work pressure, relationship issues, financial problems or health concerns.

When stress levels are high, the body releases cortisol which triggers the fight or flight response. This physiological reaction can make people feel anxious, agitated and restless. They may experience physical symptoms such as headaches or muscle tension which can be difficult to manage without professional help.

Some individuals may turn to drugs as a way of self-medicating their stress-related symptoms. They might start using prescription medications like benzodiazepines or stimulants such as cocaine or methamphetamine. Unfortunately, these substances only provide temporary relief and can quickly lead to addiction if left unchecked.

Trauma

Trauma is a major factor that can lead people to abuse drugs. Traumatic experiences, such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect or witnessing violence, can have lasting effects on an individual’s mental health and wellbeing.

Trauma can cause feelings of anxiety, depression and low self-esteem which can make one more vulnerable to addiction. For some individuals, the only way they know how to cope with their trauma is by turning to drugs as a temporary escape from their reality.

Furthermore, traumatic events also alter the brain chemistry which likely increases the likelihood of developing addiction. The brain’s reward system releases dopamine when drug use occurs and this provides temporary— but false— relief from negative emotions associated with trauma.

Environment

The environment that someone is exposed to can also play a significant role in their likelihood of abusing drugs. This could include the physical and social environment they are in, as well as cultural factors.

In some cases, individuals may grow up in an environment where drug use is normalized or even encouraged. They may have parents or other family members who abuse drugs themselves, making it seem like a natural part of life.

Similarly, peer pressure can be a powerful force when it comes to drug use. If someone’s friends or social circle regularly use drugs, they may feel pressured to do the same in order to fit in.

Additionally, certain societal and cultural factors can contribute to drug abuse. For example, communities that experience high levels of poverty and unemployment may turn to drugs as a form of escape from their circumstances.

Get Help For A Drug Addiction No Matter The Factors

Drug abuse is a complex issue that affects not just the individual, but also their loved ones and society as a whole. While there are several factors that can cause someone to turn to drugs, it’s important to remember that addiction is a disease and those who suffer from it need understanding and support.

And if you or someone you love needs professional help combatting a drug or alcohol addiction, we are always here to help— no matter the factors. Please give us a call at (877) 958-5354 and we can help. 

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