Why People Become Addicted to Drugs and Alcohol – SHARP

There is a fine line between abuse and being addicted to drugs or alcohol. On the one hand, abuse is when a person uses a drug or alcohol but has the capacity or ability to stop. Abusers will continue to use drugs and alcohol even though they know it has an adverse effect on their health and wellbeing.

On the other hand, dependence is characterised by the inability to quit, driven by compulsion, loss of control and continued use despite the consequences. Addiction may include increased tolerance and withdrawal, unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop, loss of control and consistently using more for longer periods.

Why do Some People Become Addicted to Drugs and Alcohol? Both abuse and addiction can cause frequent failure to meet work, social or family obligations. Drug and alcohol abuse or dependence affects people of any age, sex or social class. It is important to understand what makes some people more prone to addiction than others.

Several Factors that can Indicate a Person’s Potential Proneness to Drug and Alcohol Abuse or Addiction, these include:

• Genetics – abuse or addiction is more common in people who have blood relatives that are addicted to drugs. For example more than 60% of alcoholics have a family history, and children are 4 times more likely to pick up the habit if a parent is an alcoholic. In addition, regular exposure to these substances and the behaviour plays a role.
• Psychological Problems or Mental Illness – People who suffer from mental illness or psychological problems such as depression, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, loneliness or anxiety often turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism or to “escape from the world”.
• Social Environment – A lack of family involvement, parent supervision and feeling isolated can cause people to become addicted to drugs and alcohol. In addition, teenagers are likely to start taking drugs and alcohol because of the company they keep at school or work and in the community. This often leads to continual use in social circles and later to abuse or addiction.
• Self-Esteem – Drugs and alcohol abuse and dependence is more prevalent in people with low self-esteem and self-confidence because substances can enhance confidence and provide comfort in social situations.
• Coping Mechanisms and Life Skills – People who had traumatic childhood experiences such as physical and sexual abuse, stress and bad parenting, use drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism which can lead to addiction.

Anybody can become addicted to a substance but drug and alcohol addiction can be prevented by a supportive loving family, community and school. Educating the public is the key to fighting abuse and dependence because understanding what makes people prone to, and the harm these substances cause can help reduce abuse and addiction.