Addiction to drugs and alcohol can ruin a persons’ life. While the actual act of addiction can be treated with detox programs and residential treatment, there is little focus on the substance abuse causes that create the feeling of extreme reward when abusing a substance. We’re going to discuss 3 common causes of substance abuse.

1. Substance Abuse Causes: Trauma

Trauma can impact a person’s life indefinitely if it is not addressed and treated properly. Trauma experienced at any point in the lifespan will still have a tremendous impact on mental health. Experiences with trauma can alter memories, chemicals in the brain and create scars that are extremely complicated and deep. Trauma may also be experienced vicariously.

Examples of traumatic events include:

  • Loss of a loved one
  • Abuse
  • Injury to self or others
  •  Auto/ATV Accident

These are just a few examples of trauma. The impact that trauma plays on our minds is primal. Our instincts to survive kick in and our brains do whatever it takes to survive the event with the maturity and skills that are in place. While some may experience the same event and not be impacted, others may experience the same events and have a completely different reaction.

“The path of choice must become a healing journey, which is now being awakened in the hearts of many, as trauma-informed care is coming to the forefront of what has always played a role in the lives of those who have suffered from traumatic life events. Heal the trauma and you will heal many of the causes of the mental and physical illnesses. Integrated health care programs are designed to increase the availability of behavioral health services within primary care settings.”

-Cinthia Herron-McFeature, Ph.D. – Author of Integrated Health : HeartPath Practitioners Assessment and Treatment for Trauma-Exposed Patient

2. Substance Abuse Causes: Mental Health Conditions

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common complaints when researching mental health conditions. That isn’t always the final diagnosis, however. There are many mental health conditions that contribute to feeling depressed and anxious. Some of the most common are:

  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Schizophrenia

… Just to name a few. Depression and anxiety are often accompanied by other signs and symptoms of mental health conditions. Many people treat their symptoms through methods of self-medication.

For example, schizophrenics smoke cigarettes. The relationship between the act of smoking a cigarette and having schizophrenia has been heavily researched as it is so common. Come to find out, smoking cigarettes that contain nicotine actually help the parts of the brain impacted by schizophrenia. This creates a calming feeling and treats some of the anxiety experienced by those with schizophrenia. (Learn more about it on

Anxiety Disorders affect 18.1 percent of adults in the United States (approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54).

– National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

3. Substance Abuse Causes: Nature and Nurture

There is an ongoing debate in the field of psychology. What plays a larger role in the development of mental health? The biology of our brains, genes, and the “nature” we inherit as part of our DNA? Or is it the environment that we grow up in; the air, house, familial relationships, or other outside forces? While arguments are on both sides are valid, both the genetic predisposition and correct environmental factors play a role in developing substance abuse disorders and addiction.

Research has provided us with evidence that addiction can be genetic.

Addictions are a diverse set of common, complex diseases that are to some extent tied together by shared genetic and environmental etiological factors. They are frequently chronic, with a relapsing/remitting course. Genetic studies and other analyses clarifying the origins of addiction help destigmatize addiction, leading to more prompt treatment. Knowledge of genetic factors in etiology and treatment response may enable the individualization of prevention and treatment, as well as the identification of new therapeutic targets.

Addictions are chronic relapsing psychiatric disorders characterized by the compulsive and dyscontrolled use of a drug or activity, with maladaptive and destructrive outcomes.


More information about genetics and addiction can be found on the University of Utah’s website.

Understanding the causes of substance abuse can help family and friends understand their loved ones struggle with addiction. It is a time for compassion and understanding – but these topics also demand a professional approach. Interventions are strongly advised with the help of professionals that are trained to help those that suffer from addiction and substance use disorders. These disorders are chronic relapsing disorders. Without the right treatment and intervention, deadly overdoses may occur. The rate of death by overdose continues to climb.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 55,403 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015.

-American Society of Addiction Medicine

Don’t delay recovery. The admissions team at New Roads Behavioral Health is highly trained and capable of finding the correct treatment for those impacted by substance abuse and addiction. There is hope, we can help : 888-358-8998