What Are the Causes of Drug Abuse?

Written by Chloe Nicosia

The causes of drug abuse are complex and varied.

Drug abuse is defined as using a psychoactive substance, such as drugs or alcohol, in a way that causes problems in your life. These may be related to your health, finances, relationships, or legal status. They may stem from engaging in risky behavior, such as driving under the influence or having unprotected sex. There are many reasons why people abuse drugs, and addressing the causes of drug abuse in treatment is essential for ending chronic drug abuse. Some people may have more than one underlying cause. In order to successfully treat an addiction, the causes of drug abuse must be addressed.

Common Types of Drug Abuse

Drug abuse can lead to addiction, which occurs due to changes in the structures and functions of the brain related to substance abuse. Addiction is characterized by being unable to stop using drugs or alcohol compulsively even though they’re causing problems in your life.

The three main types of drug abuse are:

alcohol abuse, prescription drug abuse, and legal and illegal drug abuse.

The most common form of alcohol abuse is binge drinking, which involves consuming enough alcohol in the space of two hours to bring your blood alcohol content up to .08 percent. For women, this is four drinks. For men, it’s five.

Prescription drug abuse involves using a prescription medication–such as prescription painkillers like OxyContin or stimulants like Adderall or Ritalin, in a way other than as prescribed. This may mean taking more than prescribed or taking someone else’s medications. While around half of all high school students believe that prescription drug abuse is safe because these drugs are prescribed by a doctor, nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, more than 100 people die every day due to painkiller overdoses alone.

Legal and illegal drug abuse involves using drugs that are either illegal, including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana, or legal but dangerous, such as kratom and cough syrup. Marijuana is the most commonly abused drug after alcohol, and marijuana abuse is expected to rise as the drug becomes legal in more states.

The Causes of Drug Abuse

There are many causes of drug abuse. The most common include a history of trauma, mental illness, and chronic stress.

Experiencing a trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse, accidents, war, or natural disaster, can lead to long-term problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. PTSD causes nightmares, insomnia, flashbacks, anger, and fear. Many people abuse drugs or alcohol to self-medicate these negative symptoms. Childhood trauma is a very common cause of substance abuse.

Similarly, mental illnesses like anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders are common causes of drug abuse. It’s very common for people with a mental illness to use drugs or alcohol to reduce symptoms. Unfortunately, drugs or alcohol almost always make a mental illness worse, and they can even cause the onset of a mental illness where one didn’t exist before.

Chronic stress due to poverty, financial problems, a dysfunctional relationship can lead to great dissatisfaction with life. For many, drugs and alcohol are a way to relax and reduce stress. But drugs and alcohol have been shown through research to worsen the way your body responds to stress, making your chronic stress even worse.

Other common causes of drug abuse include family dysfunction and medical illness. The causes and effects of drug abuse can snowball, leading to heavier use and addiction.

Treating Drug Abuse and Addiction Requires Addressing the Underlying Causes

Better Addiction Care can help you find a high quality treatment program to address the underlying causes behind your drug abuse or addiction. A holistic rehab program offers both traditional and alternative approaches to treatment that will help you:

  • Delve into the issues that led to the substance abuse.
  • Develop the skills you need to cope with stress, cravings, and other triggers.
  • Replace self-destructive thought and behavior patterns with healthier ways of thinking and behaving.
  • Learn to relax and have fun without drugs or alcohol.
  • Find purpose and meaning in a life of sobriety.

The sooner you get help for the causes and effects of drug abuse or addiction, the sooner you can begin to put your life back together and enjoy a higher quality of life and better sense of well-being.