Root Causes of Addiction (They May Surprise You)

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Addiction is like an invasive weed: It must be rooted out, to be fully destroyed. By simply pulling the leaves, we leave the roots intact which allows the weed to redevelop. In the same way, addiction is much more likely to reoccur if the recovery process is superficial, dealing only with the physical aspects of abstinence and withdrawal. To adequately eradicate addiction, it must be stopped at the root, and understanding the root cause of addiction is the first step to recovering.

Generally speaking, addiction produces the release of dopamine – a naturally-occurring neurotransmitter in the brain. It sends a “reward” signal to the brain that makes us feel good by providing a feeling of pleasure and motivation. Unfortunately, chemicals like drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol and activities like gambling, pornography, or shopping, are easily-accessible ways to increase dopamine levels. Eventually, the repeated use of these alternatives can lead to addiction.

Although there are exceptions and science has shown there are some who have a genetic predisposition for addiction, it’s quite accurate to say, the most common root cause of addiction of any kind is pain. The question is, what kind of pain is causing your addiction or the addiction of your loved one?

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Emotional/Mental Pain

Trauma is just one thing that can cause the pain of depression, although there are many causes. Depression is a sometimes debilitating problem affecting 40 million adults in the US. Depression includes low levels of dopamine, as well as other important neurotransmitters. When someone is depressed, often they will feel isolated and alone. Various activities can help alleviate the pain of depression but not all activities are healthy. Without proper treatment for the underlying cause of depression, you or your loved one is at risk of establishing an addiction in an effort to mask the pain of depression.

Physical Pain

Whether chronic or acute, some people can become addicted to opiates after an injury or surgery. Doctors prescribe painkillers to help their patients live a somewhat pain-free life post-injury. These medications not only relieve pain but, again, release “feel-good” chemicals in the brain. Because of this, they can inadvertently lead to a dependence upon them. This dependence can then even escalate to more dangerous, illicit drugs such as illegal opiates, heroin, or cocaine.


Spiritual Pain

Spiritual pain / suffering is a condition in which a person’s need for love, faith, hope, virtue, and beauty are unmet. As with all elements of life, one’s level of need (and definition of each) varies from person to person. Because it is unique to everyone, it is important to dig deeply into oneself to determine which – if any – of these aspects of life are causing spiritual pain.

Social Pain

By being ostracized, humiliated, isolated, bullied, rejected, or otherwise shunned in society, we can feel social pain. Social pain has neurological effects on the brain and can lead to depression, isolation, physical pain and, ultimately, addiction.

Genetic Predisposition

A genetic predisposition to addiction has long been attributed to some addictions. Science has established a hypothesis that “Alcohol dependence and dependence on other drugs frequently co-occur, and strong evidence suggests that both disorders are, at least in part, influenced by genetic factors.”

Regardless of the root cause of your or your loved one’s addiction, there is undoubtedly a deep underlying cause and you (or they) are in pain. The first and most important step to recovery is to make the decision to seek help. If you are afraid or unsure, realize this is a natural response but it is crucial to understand the importance of your own recognition of the need for help, and that you are not alone.

Contact us today to find out more about your journey to healing the pain behind your addiction.


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