Common Causes for Substance Abuse Disorders

Learn the causes for substance abuse disorders

There are a range of causes for substance abuse disorders. Substance use disorders almost always have underlying causes. Resolving the issues behind an addiction is key to ending the addiction. The disorders that fall under the umbrella of substance use disorders include substance abuse, addiction, and dependence. Before understanding the causes for substance abuse disorders, it’s important to distinguish between these conditions. 

Substance abuse is characterized by using drugs or alcohol in a way that causes problems in your life.

Addiction is characterized by being unable to stop compulsively using drugs or alcohol despite the problems it causes in your life. Addiction is the result of changes in the brain’s memory, learning, and reward centers that lead to changes in behavior and thought patterns.

Dependence is characterized by withdrawal symptoms that set in when you stop using drugs or alcohol. Dependence is the result of changes in the brain’s chemical function as it tries to compensate for the substance of abuse.

Two Top Causes for Substance Abuse Disorders

Chronic stress and mental illness are two of the most common causes for substance abuse disorders.

Chronic Stress

Common causes of chronic stress include poverty, financial problems, chronic illness, and dyfunctional relationships. Stress can have a wide range of negative health effects, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and the onset of anxiety or depression. It can also lead to heavy substance abuse as a way to cope with the pressure.

While drugs or alcohol may seem to help you relax at first, they almost always make your stress worse by preventing your body from responding properly to it.

Mental Illness

Another one of the most common causes for substance abuse disorders is mental illness. Mental illnesses that commonly co-occur with substance use disorders include:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Schizophrenia.

People with a mental illness often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to reduce unpleasant symptoms and improve mood. But psychoactive substances almost always make symptoms of mental illness worse, and they can even lead to a mental illness where one didn’t exist before.

Substance use disorder treatment for co-occurring disorders is known as dual diagnosis treatment. It works by addressing both the mental illness and the substance use disorder at the same time, each in the context of the other. Other common causes of substance abuse include a history of trauma and family dysfunction.

Substance Abuse Disorder Symptoms

The mental health and medical communities now diagnose substance abuse, addiction, and dependence under “substance use disorder.” A substance use disorder is characterized as mild if two or three of the eleven diagnostic criteria are met, moderate if four to five are met, or severe if six or more are met. The eleven criteria used to diagnose substance use disorders are:

  1. Using larger doses of drugs or alcohol or for a longer period of time than you intended.
  2. Wanting to cut down or quit but finding you can’t do it.
  3. Spending a lot of time and energy obtaining, using, and recovering from using drugs or alcohol.
  4. Intense cravings for the substance.
  5. Being repeatedly unable to meet obligations at home, work, or school due to substance abuse.
  6. Continuing to use drugs or alcohol even though it causes social and relationship problems.
  7. Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed in favor of using the substance.
  8. Engaging in risky behaviors while procuring a substance or while under the influence.
  9. Continuing to use drugs or alcohol even though they’re causing physical or mental health problems.
  10. Developing a tolerance so that you need higher doses of drugs or alcohol to get the same effects.
  11. Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop using the substance.

If you experience two or more of these substance abuse disorder symptoms, contact BAC today at 1-800-429-7690. We can help you find a high quality substance use disorder treatment program to help you recover from an addiction and restore your health, relationships, and quality of life for the long-term.

Type city, state, resources keyword
Generic filters