3 Things You Didn’t Think Contribute to Addiction


Addiction is a complex disease that affects millions of lives worldwide. According to recent data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, over 23 million people in the United States alone could benefit from substance abuse treatment.1

What causes some people to struggle with addiction, but not others? While certain factors such as genetics are known to contribute to addiction, other factors may surprise you. This article examines three things that you may not have realized can increase the risk of addiction.

1. Poverty

Substance abuse is sometimes popularly believed to be more prevalent among financially disadvantaged populations. While a lack of money doesn’t directly cause drug or alcohol abuse, a complex relationship exists between poverty and addiction.

A person living in impoverished circumstances may turn to substance abuse as a way to cope with the stress of their existence. People who live in poverty are also likely to have limited access to treatment, making it harder to address a worsening substance abuse problem.

The connection between poverty and substance abuse goes both ways. People who are impoverished are more likely to abuse drugs, and people who struggle with addiction are more likely to end up impoverished. This relationship creates a vicious cycle that can end up affecting multiple generations of families.

2. Trauma

Trauma is a strong risk factor for addiction. One study of women who were undergoing substance abuse treatment showed that over 80 percent of the study participants had endured a physical or sexual assault in their past.2

What’s responsible for the link between trauma and addiction? The psychological effects of trauma can be intense and long-lasting. Substance abuse often serves as a form of self-medication, helping trauma survivors deal with the stress and difficult emotions that stem from their past experiences.

3. Peer Pressure

Most people associate peer pressure with teen substance abuse, but it can be a contributing factor among adults as well. Frequently in cases of adult peer pressure, people feel pressured by the people they live with. For example, if one spouse drinks heavily or uses drugs, the other spouse may end up joining them. The formerly sober spouse may also use as a way to keep the peace and avoid fighting about their loved one’s substance use. These actions may seem harmless at first, but they can quickly develop into a full-blown addiction.

There are usually multiple factors at work when someone develops a substance use disorder, and no two cases of addiction are exactly alike. Keep in mind that experiencing the factors that contribute to addiction doesn’t guarantee that a person will develop a problem—an individual may have several of these risk factors and never experience addiction because they take action to counteract the increased risk.

However, it’s also important to remember that addiction is treatable. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, know that effective help is available. With the right treatment, it’s possible to overcome addiction and make a fresh start.


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-statistics
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2795638

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