What Causes Addiction?

Welcome to the What Causes Addiction? topic center

In this topic center, you will find information in the following categories in regards to the causes of addiction:

  1. Biological Perspectives.
  2. Psychological Perspectives.
  3. Moral & Spiritual Perspectives.
  4. 12-Step Perspectives.
  5. Cognitive-Behavioral/Social Learning Theories.
  6. Other Theories.

There are many theories on what causes addiction. Some contend that it is genetically determined, while at the other end of the spectrum, others argue that it is caused by purely environmental factors, like a turbulent childhood.

The dominant model in the United States is called the disease model, originally proposed by Alan Leshner at the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA). The disease model views addiction as a biological “disease” whereby the drug essentially hijacks the brain, leading to enduring biochemical changes and making addiction inevitable.

There are, however, several other competing theories. For example, some propose that addiction is more contingent upon dysfunctional thoughts and conditioned behaviors; that addiction is a moral or spiritual problem; or that addiction results from a lack of social connection.

Today, a large portion of psychologists accept that addiction results from the complex interaction of many factors, including biological, psychological, social, and even (for some) spiritual factors. This is referred to as the Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual (BPSS) Model.

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What Causes Addiction?

The Biology of Addiction and Recovery

So how do people get addicted anyway? The recent contributions of science and medicine during the past 50-60 years have greatly advanced our understanding of addiction. We are beginning to understand biological forces that affect behavior (both humans and animals). Addiction is easier to understand when we consider that our biology programs us to pursue pleasure. However, we are not slaves to our biology. The unrestrained pursuit of pleasure represents a type of developmental immaturity as depicted in the classic story of Peter Pan. Therefore, the psycho-social-spiritual portion of the Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual model (BPSS) influences whether we mature beyond our biological limitations.

In this section, we will explore the biological forces that drive addiction. In subsequent sections, we will discuss the psychological, the social, and the spiritual portions of the BPSS model.

Biology and Addictions Research: The Benefits of Science