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The Starting Line of Substance Use Disorder

Jun 19, 2020

Long before someone is diagnosed with a substance use disorder, multiple factors have been forming a point in their life where addiction first becomes possible. We’ll call that point a “starting line” here as a way of creating a visual for you. Today, let’s look at the factors that go into creating that starting line and how to respond when you recognize them in your own life.

Evidence shows that five general factors can lead to substance use disorders (SUDs) in men and women: mental health, trauma, genetics, environment, and peer pressure. These factors are not equally weighted in affecting someone’s addiction nor do all five factors appear to be influential in every case. If you know someone dealing with a substance use disorder and a co-occurring mental health disorder, dual diagnosis treatment is available and a facility also offering trauma therapies can be helpful.

Five Factors Connected to Substance Use Disorders

  1. Mental Health Disorders
  2. Trauma
  3. Genetics
  4. Environment
  5. Peer Pressure

Mental Health Disorders Related to SUDs

Undiagnosed mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, can lead to substance use disorders as men and women self-medicate as a way to manage their symptoms. These disorders may precede the use of drugs and alcohol or may develop after use of alcohol, marijuana, heroin, or another substance has begun. When someone is living with a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder, simultaneous treatment known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder treatment is recommended.

Trauma as a Factor in Substance Use Disorders

One area affecting mental health, trauma, can be its own contributing factor to substance use disorders. This trauma can be from physical, mental, emotional, or sexual abuse in one incident or repeated events. Trauma left unaddressed can lead a survivor to cope with the painful memories of the experience using drugs or alcohol routinely or switch between substances depending on what’s accessible.

The Role of Genetics in SUDs

The biological factor in developing a substance use disorder comes when DNA makes someone predisposed to addiction. In this case, their body may react with more intensity to drugs and alcohol and their level of euphoria may be higher than others. Their brains may also be hard-wired in a way with diminishes willpower and the power to choose abstinence. A predisposition alone doesn’t automatically mean someone will develop an SUD, but it does increase the chances of it.

Environment’s Impact on SUDs

Environment is often considered the “nurture” in a “nature versus nurture” discussion of behaviors. Environmental factors can be financial instability of your family, hostile relationship of your parents, mental health disorder in a family member, substance use disorder in a parent, lack of stable or secure housing, and more that can lead someone to use drugs and alcohol as a means of suppressing emotional pain. Another environmental factor can be the normalizing of drug or alcohol use in a family, by a group of friends, or within a neighborhood.

Peer Pressure Connected to SUDs

You may think of peer pressure as an adolescent experience, but even adults exert pressure on each other to communicate an expectation of someone else’s participation in drug or alcohol use. The other person may typically drink at safe levels but feel compelled to increase their drinking or experiment with illicit drugs due to the pressure they feel to be like others in their social group. The pressure to “keep up” and the frequency with which they spend time with people with substance use disorders can lead to their own inability to sustain sobriety.

If you recognize these factors in play in yourself or someone you know, it’s recommended to seek treatment immediately. When mental health may be a factor, dual diagnosis treatment to address the substance use and an underlying mental health condition is considered more effective than a traditional drug rehab program.

Hanley Center – A Path to Recovery

Hanley Center is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 844-501-4673.

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