8 Causes of Substance Abuse

Being a substance abuser is not a label that anyone secretly wants to have. No one wakes up one day and decides to drink bottles of liquor, smoke packets of cigarettes, or inhale cocaine or meth religiously just for kicks. No, it is usually a coping mechanism for things that may have happened as far back as the person’s childhood years.

“For most people, the addiction process starts off rather innocently, i.e., a strong desire to overcome challenges related to socially engaging with others, numb negative feelings, manage psychological or physical pain.” — Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

Check out the possible causes of substance abuse below.

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Drugs and alcohol have a strong pull for people who went through or are still going through an ordeal. Whether it’s emotional or sexual violence, such substances offer them a leeway to forget traumatic experiences momentarily. Furthermore, studies reveal that the female victims show a higher probability of becoming addicted compared to their male counterparts. 

Lack of Confidence

The society has a lot of predefined social and beauty standards that make it difficult for some to accept even themselves. If they try to remedy the issue and it doesn’t work, they may opt for drinking or using drugs to uplift the spirits.

Peer Pressure

The influence of friends who do not mean well can affect not only a teen but also an adult who can’t find inner peace. These folks can persuade you to think that pot or alcohol is the answer to your worries until you become addicted to it.

Mental Disorder

Mental disorders like depression and anxiety bring pain to the patient goes beyond the physical level. They suck joy and motivation out of an individual, and that’s enough to ruin their lives and careers. To feel cheerful again, some resort to taking antidepressants more often than what the physician prescribed and eventually commit substance abuse.

“It’s not adaptive when we deny warning signs of a treatable illness or problem out of fear.” — Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

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Professionals and homemakers alike are prone to acquiring stress on a daily basis. Instead of meditating or distracting themselves with inoffensive activities, however, many choose to smoke or drink to relieve stress. This can quickly develop into an addiction if you don’t watch yourself.

Life Pressures

For a person who often receives a lot of pressure to do their best in their respective industry, drugs are a much-needed form of distraction. It allows them to tune everything and everyone out and just be in their world for a bit.

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“A lot of our stress is about what we can’t control, yet we all indulge in some degree of magical thinking that tells us that somehow worrying or considering every potential negative outcome will solve the problem or at least protect us. Rather than repeatedly setting off warnings in our heads that tell us to panic, why not give ourselves permission to stay in the moment and deal with what is rather than what might be?” — Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.


Some teenagers with busy or nagging parents turn to harmful substances as a way of getting their attention. They feel like the adults won’t hear them out unless they get in trouble as dangerous as addiction. Others use substances as an act of defiance the parents’ strict rules or to deal with family issues they’re too ashamed to speak of in front of friends or teachers.

Acquired Behavior

Substance abuse is also not far from reality for someone who grew up with drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol immediately available around the house. It won’t seem strange for a child, especially if that’s all they saw and knew from the beginning. They may even carry the notion that using those substances are OK until adulthood.


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