Understanding the Underlying Causes of Addiction

While the terms “substance abuse” and “addiction” are often used interchangeably, they actually describe very different conditions. Even though both of these issues can have a negative effect on your life, when you abuse a substance, you typically still have control over your behavior and may be able to change it. If you’re addicted, you’re out of control, and your disease impacts most if not all areas of your life, even endangering your health, relationships, and livelihood. 

Unfortunately, several underlying factors can lead to addiction, which require medical attention to overcome. And, the most effective treatment involves addressing them in a holistic manner.

As an experienced psychiatrist specializing in addiction medicine in Fresno, California, Dr. Latif Ziyar uses a biopsychosocial model to address the underlying biological, psychological, and social factors of this complex disease.

Biological changes

Certain substances can cause biological changes in the body that lead to addiction. For example, opioids both legal and illegal cause your brain to release the neurotransmitter dopamine, triggering a euphoric feeling. With regular use, your brain starts producing less dopamine naturally, which increases your urge to consume more of the substance that generated the euphoric feelings you now lack. 

Some substances also affect how your prefrontal cortex works. This part of your brain controls decision-making, leading you to make poor or risky choices. Changes in this area cause intense withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking the substance, such as anxiety, inability to sleep, rapid heart rate, and abdominal cramping.

With regular use, these underlying biological factors increase your chances of becoming addicted to a specific substance.

Psychological issues

Mental health disorders often coexist with substance abuse and addiction. Unfortunately, many men, women, children with a mental health condition use alcohol or other substances to self-medicate. In most cases, this only makes existing mental health symptoms worse and leads to addictive behavior. 

The most common mental health conditions overlapping with substance abuse include:

When you have a mental illness and a substance use disorder, it’s known as co-occurring disorders, comorbidity, or dual diagnosis. In these cases, it’s crucial to find expert care from a specialist, like Dr. Ziyar, with advanced training in both addiction treatment and psychiatry to help break the cycle.

Genetic predisposition and social factors

In addition to biological responses in mental health disorders, genetics and social factors play a significant role in addiction. In fact, you’re also eight times more likely to have addiction issues if you had a parent who was an addict, and genetics are responsible for about 50% of addiction cases. 

Growing up in a household with drug abuse is equally as risky as having a genetic predisposition to addiction. That’s because this environment normalizes substance use and abuse, teaching a young person that it’s an okay behavior and nothing serious. Unfortunately, this attitude often increases your chances of abusing a substance later on in your life and can lead to addiction.

To learn more about the underlying causes of addiction or to find treatment, call us at 559-306-6726 or book an appointment online with Latif Ziyar, M.D., today.

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