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Understanding the Root Causes of Addiction

It is now widely accepted that there are several major factors to be explored for relevancy in each individual addicted person. We will talk about a few of those, and also discuss the importance of professional counseling in a successful recovery program.

Understanding the root cause of a problem leads to effective solutions. When both the addicted individual and the family understand the root causes of the addiction, they are able to find solutions and experience recovery.

Please note that each individual person must be evaluated within the context of their specific situations and experiences to determine the major causes of their addiction. Following are some of the major causes of addiction that research, along with my experiences as a professional addiction counselor, have identified as root causes of addictive behavior.


One of the primary causes of addiction is trauma that remains unresolved, and it is one of the first causes I explore with my clients. There are various studies that suggest from 25 to 75% of the people suffering from addiction have experienced a traumatic event that is the impetus of the addictive behavior. Many types of trauma such as exposure to violence, sexual and physical trauma, and severe emotional trauma have all been linked to addictive behavior.


A genetic predisposition and a family history of addiction also play a major role in the development of addictive behavior. Understanding this component allows us to see that it is not a moral issue or a weak will that causes addiction, as these factors are beyond the control of the individual once they begin to drink or use drugs.


This term speaks to multiple factors at play together in the process of addiction. It simply means that a person with both a chemical imbalance in their brain along with an addiction multiplies the negative effects of drug and alcohol abuse. Some of the co-occurring disorders that I’ve seen in my practice over the years include major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and schizophrenia. Having the knowledge that such dual processes exacerbate addiction leads to effective treatment.


Our current global situation with the pandemic and the impact it’s having on mental health is an example of a life stressor that could be a root cause of addiction. There are some studies reporting now that relapse rates are up as high as 33% in the last months due to the pandemic and the consequences on individual’s social, emotional and financial life. Other life situations that can lead to overwhelm an individual’s ability to cope include the loss of a loved one, divorce and a volatile childhood environment.


This past week one of my clients in recovery asked me what is the reason that people abuse substance. I found myself giving the answer that it’s a way of escaping pain and discomfort. Perhaps that’s a bit simplistic, but I find it to be true that regardless of the cause of addictive behavior it is an attempt by anyone abusing substances to avoid pain and suffering. Knowing this also allows you to see the individual is lacking in life skills necessary to come up with a healthy and permanent solution to the pain that is driving the desire to escape through addiction. Just as substituting healthy relationships for the abuse substance is important, in the context of those relationships addicted individuals can learn coping mechanisms that are more effective in the long run. Proper recovery then is a maturing process by which new skills are learned and old ineffective destructive skills are discarded. Whether via a 12-step program, a family Sober support team, sober coaching, individual counseling or family therapy there’s specific transformative tools that can be taught.


Several root causes of addiction are now understood. Evidence based interventions via medications and therapy with a professional counselor are now available. As I’ve said before in other blogs, it takes a village for good solid recovery to occur. Involving the entire family, solid therapeutic techniques and a peer support group all are components of a very good recovery program. All of this implies that recovery is possible with diligence focused in the right supportive environment.

“A problem properly stated is half solved.” John Dewey

Just a reminder that in my practice not only do I offer interventions and addictive counseling for individuals and families, but also provide sober coaching and trauma resolution therapy. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I hope to talk to you soon if you have a need!

If you or a loved one may be struggling with addiction, it is very important for you to seek out professional help as soon as possible. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if I may be of assistance to you or your loved ones. My website provides more information on my practice and how to contact me with questions or take advantage of a free 20-minute phone appointment.

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