Addiction - Causes






Addiction is a very complex behavior. Humans have been trying to understand its causes for many years. At one time, moral weakness was accepted as the primary reason for addiction. According to this theory, some people do not have the moral strength to withstand an addiction. Although still believed by some members of the general public, this theory is no longer accepted by professionals.

Detoxification:
Withdrawal; the process by which a person gives up a substance or activity to which he or she has become addicted.
Impairment:
An inability to carry on normal everyday functions because of an addiction.
Methadone:
A chemical given to addicts to help them overcome their addiction to heroin.
Physiological dependence:
A condition in which a person's body requires certain behaviors or the intake of some substance, without which it will become ill.
Process addiction:
A condition in which a person is dependent on some type of behavior, such as gambling, shopping, or sexual activity.
Psychological dependence:
A condition in which a person requires certain activities or the intake of some substance in order to maintain mental stability.
Substance addiction:
A condition in which a person is dependent on some chemical substance, such as cocaine or heroin.
Tolerance:
The ability of a body to endure a certain amount of a substance that had previously been too much for it to tolerate.
Twelve-step program:
A plan for overcoming an addiction by going through twelve stages of personal development.
Withdrawal:
The process by which a person adjusts to the absence of some substance or activity to which he or she has become addicted.

Today, researchers understand that a variety of factors can contribute to making a person an addict. Many events in a person's background may

An opium addict peals gauze off an infected sore, caused by injecting opium up to ten times a day. (Reproduced by permission of AP/Wide World Photos)
An opium addict peals gauze off an infected sore, caused by injecting opium up to ten times a day. (Reproduced by permission of
AP/Wide World Photos
)

lead him or her to begin using addictive substances. Some of these events include:

  • Use of illegal substances by family members and friends.
  • Poor family upbringing where love, warmth, praise, and acceptance are lacking.
  • Lack of direction from the family about the proper ways to get along with others.
  • Poverty, poor living conditions, or isolation from other people.
  • Failure in school.
  • Failure to develop the ability to get along with peers.
  • Growing up in a neighborhood in which drug use is common and widely accepted.
  • Frequent family moves to new homes.
  • Medical use of prescription drugs for legitimate reasons. For example, a doctor may prescribe a drug to an individual suffering from back pain. While the drug is intended to alleviate the pain, it may also contain some addictive side effects. Such drug use is carefully monitored by the physician, but it is also up to the patient to use the drug only as prescribed.

Addictions grow stronger over time for two reasons. First, a person's body may become biologically dependent on the substance or behavior. That is, the body may begin to need and expect that it will receive a certain substance each day or each hour. If it does not receive that substance, it responds by becoming ill. When this happens, the person is said to be physiologically dependent on the substance or activity.

This explanation has been used for addictive behavior as well as addictive substances. Some types of behavior cause a person to become very excited. Their body chemistry may actually

change as they win a jackpot or make another sexual conquest. Over time, body chemistry may demand repetition of the activities that produced this level of excitement.

People can also become psychologically addicted to substances and activities. That is, the substance or activity makes them feel happy, more self-confident, or better in some other way. In order to keep experiencing these feelings, they believe they must continue to use the substance or activity that gave them these feelings. In this case, a person is said to be psychologically dependent. In many cases, addictions involve both physiological and psychological aspects.

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