How Does Someone Become an Addict?

How Does Someone Become an Addict?

Addicts are people who would sooner give up breathing (sometimes literally) than to stop using their preferred substance or substances because they’re chemically and psychologically attached to the drugs they’re taking. It has become their “normal”, in the same way that most other people view sobriety as normalcy. Without consuming the substance/s they’re addicted to, their brain and body rebel against addicts, compelling them to find a way to get their next hit as though there’s a whole other self involved who’s staging a mutiny against them.

But why and how exactly do people get addicted – and are certain people more easily addicted to substances compared to others? How does one start forming an addiction in the first place, and can just about anyone turn into an addict?

What Is Drug Addiction Anyway?

Before delving into the process by which someone becomes an addict, it’s important to discuss what drug addiction is in the first place. You need to know what drug addiction is before claiming what causes it and how someone can become an addict. Addiction defined as a chronic disease that involves seeking drugs and using them in a difficult to control or compulsive way, despite the ever-growing list of harmful consequences and disadvantages of doing so. When you’re an addict, you can’t help yourself in your usage at all.

  • Initially Voluntary: Initially, addicts start out as mere users who voluntary take drugs for various purposes, from dealing with a sickness to recreational use. However, when you use drugs repeatedly, the brain’s chemistry and neuropathic pattern changes to accommodate this formative type of bad habit or vice. Most anything you do constantly can bore its way into your brain if you do it often enough.
  • Drug Use Induces Brain Changes: The changes in the brain once it notices your regular drug use is gradual but hard to change back to its original state the longer you use drugs. These alternations challenge your self-control and interfere with your ability to resist urges to take more drugs. This is because regular usage makes your brain more used to having the drug around, thus making it your new normal.
  • Persistent Alterations: These changes in your brain will tend to persist, especially when it comes to drugs that directly alter portions of your brain so it’s not just a psychological addiction compelling you to keep using. Recovering from addiction in rehab centers like Lanna Rehab entails undoing these alterations by replacing your drug habit with positive constructive activities instead.
  • Relapsing Disease: This is the reason why drug addiction and alcoholism are considered relapsing diseases. People recovering from drug or alcohol dependence have a higher risk for relapse or returning to drug use even after they haven’t taken such substances for years and years. This is why aftercare services are also crucial in your choice of rehab center. They can make or break the success of your rehab after you’ve “graduated” from rehab.
  • More about Relapse: Relapse is a commonplace occurrence among drug addicts, especially those who are more addicted to drugs than others. However, just because you relapsed it doesn’t mean your rehab or treatment didn’t work at all. As with other health conditions of the chronic variety, treatment for addiction should be ongoing and adjusted based on how you, the addict, are responding to it. You should review your treatment plans often so that they can be thusly modified based on your ever-changing needs when push comes to shove.

Risk Factors for Developing Addiction


The risk factors for developing drug and alcohol addictions can either be genetic or environmental in nature. In other words, they can either be learned or something you’re innately predisposed to. People of any sex, age, race, or economic status can go through dependence and substance abuse in light of the following risk factors.

  • Family History: If you have drug addicts in your family, your risk for developing drug addiction naturally rises since you might either inherit addiction predisposition from your parents or the toxic environment itself might be conducive to becoming an addict.
  • Mental Health Problems: If drug addiction is a disease then your mental health problems can make it worse or serve as factors that can lead you to become an addict. This is why rehab centers like Lanna Rehab offer dual diagnosis that takes into consideration a patient’s mental issues like depression, ADHD, and PTSD on top of his drug addiction.
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences: Your past childhood trauma can lead you to become an addict in order to help cope with it. The experience can be in the form of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Drug usage and abuse serves as your means of escaping from the trauma.
  • Social or Peer Pressure: If drug use is normalized in your everyday environment, such that you have addicts for friends, then you might become more susceptible to becoming an alcoholic or drug junkie because of social or peer pressure. You might smoke marijuana or drink loads of beer in order to better belong with your social circle.
  • Lack of Family Support: Strong family support is usually one of the key ways to resist learned addiction as seen in the reinforcement model of addiction. If you lack family support, parents, or siblings in your life, you’re likelier to turn towards alcohol and drugs to compensate for the hole in your life.
  • Early Drug Use: If you’ve started using drugs at an early age, like in your preteens or before puberty, then that actually increases your tendency to become an alcoholic or drug addict later in life. The younger you start the stronger your addiction risk becomes.
  • Using Highly Addictive Drugs: Some drugs are simply addictive by nature, such that even those who are normally resistant to addiction and have a solid drug-free environment can become addicted to them from just a few doses. Outright abstain from or be careful when using drugs like opioids, stimulants, cocaine, and so forth

The Oldest Explanation


Moral weakness was what the moral guardians of the past claimed that caused a person to become a drunkard or a junkie. It’s an unsatisfactory explanation because it uses circular logic. A person is an addict because he’s morally weak and the proof that he’s morally weak is because he’s an addict. This theory is also flawed because it doesn’t tell why there are people capable of resisting addiction. Furthermore, what’s considered as moral for one person, society, or religion might be altogether different from another person, society, or religion.

It’s not enough to presume they have strong moral fiber just because they can resist addiction, which is an unscientific way of tackling things. Scientists view the moralistic interpretation of addiction as flawed and lacking of logic or qualitative or quantitative theories. It’s also hard to prove and evokes free will that’s considered unscientific at its core. The pseudo-explanation of morals determining your addiction has been tossed aside by addiction researchers in order to tackle two more plausible theories.

Modern Drug Addiction Models

Just like any other issue of your body and mind, various triggers or factors can lead to the eventual condition known as drug or alcohol addiction. The most common causes of addiction include the following two drug addiction models that have ultimately replaced the outdated and obsolete model of the moralistic model or simple moral degeneracy.

  • Disease Model: First, there’s the disease model or theory of drug addiction, which is also known as genetics. It claims that there are people who suffer from a biological vulnerability to some or all addictive drugs. It’s genetic or in the genes even. To be more specific, addiction is a disease and some people are simply more predisposed to this disease compared to others, thus explaining why regardless of morality, some are less likely to become addicts than others. It depends on your unique DNA composition and the characteristics inherited from your parents and family at large.

    Addiction with the disease model then becomes somewhat of a condition that’s dealt with on a case-by-case basis. You might react to a drug on different ways physically and mentally relative to the kind of person you have and what sort of genetics you possess. Whatever traits you’ve inherited and whatever is encoded in your genes will determine your reaction to different drugs. To be more specific, your personal traits can speed up or slow down the way addiction develops in you as you use it more and more. Some people are simply more predisposed to addiction or have addictive personalities by nature.
  • Reinforcement Model: Second, there’s the reinforcement model, which is also known as environment. According to this model, drug use is something that’s reinforced. Addicts learn to repeat actions that make them feel good, thus resulting in them becoming addicts. In the nature versus nurture debate, this is the nurture model of the addiction condition. Your character and your environment can significantly influence your predisposition towards becoming an addict on top of your nature or genetics.

    Certain factors in your environment can influence whether your regular drug usage can escalate to drug addiction or not, which makes sense since your ability to regularly use drugs in the first place depends on their availability in your environment. Additionally, it certainly helps if your environment makes drug availability scarce or assists you in disciplining yourself towards total drug abstinence. Environment plays a significant factor in reducing or increasing your risk towards drug abuse and addiction. The idea here is that availability and regular usage can lead to addiction regardless of your propensity for the condition.

    Therefore, it’s quite fortunate that researchers now know more thoroughly than ever before how drugs affect the brains of people. This in turn has helped them in finding treatments that successfully help addicts in recovering from their condition, leading to the latter having more productive lives in sobriety.

Who Gets Addicted from Drugs Specifically?

There’s a seeming riddle when it comes to who can get addicted to drugs and who doesn’t. Biological psychologists are zeroing in on the solution to the problem of why some individuals become addicts while others don’t. To be more specific, the genetic resistance of some individuals who heavily use drugs yet still aren’t addicts can help out the genetic vulnerabilities of those who are more susceptible to the slippery slope of drug addiction or alcoholism.

  • Addicts and Dopamine Abnormalities: Addicts have underactive dopamine systems. They suffer from decreased pleasure capacity in their everyday lives that’s fulfilled by using drugs. This is because brain receptors are depleted from drug-induced over-stimulation of the neurotransmitter. Researchers report a link between addictive tendencies towards addictions prior to addiction development and genetic abnormalities in dopamine systems.
  • Genetic Predisposition to Addiction: As the disease model shows, it’s possible than some people are genetically predisposed to becoming addicts because they get less pleasure from life through normal routes, such as romantic relationships, friendships, and work. They’re bored from life and natural highs or simulations don’t compare to drugs, which makes them more susceptible to becoming addicts even before taking their first toke, hit, sip, smoke, or injection.
  • Hungry for Stimuli and Thrills: It’s not a coincidence that addicts are usually hungrier for stimulus or the thrill-seeking type. Abnormalities with dopamine might also be linked to a lack of social inhibition displayed by certain addicts. Alcoholics or alcohol addicts might ignore many social conventions when it comes to alcohol usage. Instead of drinking socially they might not care and start drinking before noon. They don’t care about the mores of only restricting drinking in the evening or for dinner. They might also not limit their drinks to only three drinks in one sitting as well.
  • Using Drugs to Treat Drug Addiction: If the disease model were correct then there should be medication that could correct this genetic predisposition towards addiction, as ironic as that might sound in treating drug addiction. At most, there are drugs available that assist an addict in dealing with withdrawal symptoms or physical addiction, like certain drugs simulating the effects of the illicit drugs you’re addicted to in order to sate your cravings without outright relapsing.

The Disease Model versus The Reinforcement Model


Drug addiction is the cause of many diseases and medical conditions. However, the disease model or theory holds that addiction itself is a disease or biological propensity to addiction. Some people are simply more susceptible to addiction even before they start using the drug. Meanwhile, others require a metric ton of regular drug usage before they can become full-blown addicts because they have some sort of genetic resistance to addiction.

At any rate, here’s how the different models or theories stack up with current treatment methods when it comes to drug addiction rehabilitation.

  • Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous: The disease model of drug and alcohol addiction underlies the 12-step rehabilitation strategy of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous that has proven itself useful in saving many lives from alcoholism and drug dependence. This program has also proven its worth to many therapists and family members.
  • Lab Experiments Support the Reinforcement Model: Experiments involving laboratory animals show the truth behind the reinforcement model. This notion has gotten a boost when it shows that using reinforcement methods on lab rats had led the animals to press a lever in order to receive small injections of addictive drugs.
  • There Is No Magic Bullet for The Disease Model: There’s no magic bullet against drug addiction. There might never be one in light of how addiction alters your very brain chemistry. Then again, like with anything else, an ounce of prevention proves itself to always be superior to a pound of cure every time. The reinforcement theory, meanwhile, focuses on the addictive properties of different substances to you, your mind, and your body.
  • The Methods of Dosage: The reinforcement theory has also helped explaining in its own unique way why crack cocaine that’s smoked shows stronger addiction properties compared to cocaine that’s snorted. Crack that’s smoked reaches your brain quicker compared to cocaine that’s snorted and brushed over your gums. Because there’s immediate reward, your drug-taking behavior is immediately reinforced.
  • Addiction Is Learned: The reinforcement model is also backed up by neuroscience. Addictive drugs are known to activate the reward system of the brain that floods your body with dopamine. Normally, this system is designed to strengthen feeding, mating, and other self-preservation behaviors that are naturally rewarded or encouraged by the brain. Drugs alter your brain in such a way that it makes it reward you for the simple act of taking the drug, as though drug-taking is in and of itself its own “reward”.
  • Multiple Risk Factors: Meanwhile, the multiple risk factors that can lead you to reinforce drug usage that can lead to drug dependence include your socio-economic status, access to healthcare, access to illegal or prescription drugs, your exposure to a peer group that tolerates or even encourages drug abuse, your education opportunities, the presence of drugs in your home, your personal attitudes and beliefs towards drug usage, and your family history when it comes to drugs.
  • Why Addiction Occurs: The reinforcement model or learned addiction provides a succinct and understandable explanation on the reason why addiction occurs. However, it’s an incomplete explanation because it doesn’t explain why some individuals get hooked more than others despite consuming roughly the same amount of addictive substances. A more complete explanation is to realize that it’s equal parts reinforcement and disease that leads people to become addicts.
  • The Two-Pronged Approach: In light of how predisposition to addiction and learned addiction can hand-in-hand turn someone into an addict, the best rehab centers out there should use a two-pronged method of treatment that addresses the individual needs of the patient through dual diagnosis while at the same time using cognitive behavior therapy to unlearn the things they learned through drug usage reinforcement. Drug addiction is equal parts caused by genetics and environment, so combining aspects of disease and reinforcement theory is needed in order to help move you back to the road to sobriety.

To Summarize

Many people lack understanding when it comes to how or why people become drug addicts or alcoholics. They might wave off these addicts are people who lack willpower or moral principles, such that they could stop using drugs if they choose to but they don’t. However, as more information about drugs spread, it has become apparent to all that drug addiction is a complex disease and addicts shouldn’t be victim-blamed for falling victim to the condition. Quitting cold turkey takes more than a strong will or good intentions. The 12-step rehab programs of yore addressed this as well. Drugs can creep into your brain and alter it in ways that make quitting your vice hard, even for those who wish to quit.

Lanna Rehab Will Help People Get Back on Their Feet from Addiction

So you’re down on your luck because you’ve become addicted to meth, coke, or heroin. Maybe instead you’ve gotten attached to marijuana, claiming it’s used for medical purposes like anxiety but you’ve actually been using it recreationally all this time. Or perhaps you’ve simply turned into an alcoholic. Never fear or fret, there’s a way out through Lanna Rehab in Thailand. Availing of a medical or rehab tourism package from the clinic in order to end up at a secluded center with a resort-like setting for your wellness vacation.

They’ll assist you in recovering from your addiction and getting back to your feet. Just call them at their 24/7 hotline for more details and to avail of their cutting-edge drug and alcohol rehab facilities. Their hotline is available 24/7. Call now!

Martin Peters

Martin Peters has a BA (Hons) Dip HE Dip RN CSAT III and is the Group Program Director Lanna Healthcare. He is a Registered Nurse and Certified Substance Abuse Therapist working in the mental health field since 1994; Martin has had a wide range of experience in management and supervisory roles within established healthcare systems, and has provided consultancy services to a number of private and public sector organizations in the UK and Asia in terms of management, policy writing, accreditation and recruitment. Martin’s addictions experience has been in developing inpatient services in Thailand since 2009, both clinical and operational. He has been instrumental in expanding and developing a non 12 step inpatient treatment centre and opening a further inpatient centre with a 12 step approach, implementing KIPU Electronic Records, strengthening hospital partnerships, introducing a Scholarship for students under the Masters in Addiction Studies Program at The ASEAN Institute for Health Development and working with an international accreditation body. Martin has also been a speaker at several international conferences on addiction, including ASEAN conferences and has also guest lectured at Mahidol University (Thailand), University of Sarghoda (Pakistan) Institute of Medical Sciences (Pakistan) and has been a representative on the CARF Standards Advisory Committee for 2016.In 2015. Martin became a Co-Founder of Lanna Healthcare, launching Lanna Rehab in March 2016 and opening Jintra in January 2018. In June of 2018, Martin was involved in the merger of Lanna and DARA, becoming Thailand's biggest private licensed operator. Martin is currently a Joint and Asia Health Co Ltd Owner Operator of Lanna Healthcare Co Ltd, which under its umbrella manages Lanna Rehab in Chiang Mai, Jintra Rehab in Chiang Mai and DARA Rehab in Koh Chang - all Thailand MoPH Licensed Addiction Facilities providing world-class treatment in Thailand.

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