The Road to Addiction: 14 Triggers -- Why, When and How it Starts

The more you understand about substance abuse, the better your chances are of coping with the situation successfully.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

The road to addiction is one of the most confusing and misunderstood areas of substance abuse. Many parents pride themselves on having a strong family unit and are often baffled as to why their children have started dabbling or actually have turned to drugs or alcohol. Likewise, mates or friends struggle to understand what prompted their loved ones to walk down the road to addiction.

More often than not, people judge and blame themselves and think that they somehow "did something" that lead their loved ones down this path. It is helpful if we can set aside our emotions and personal blame and look for answers that might shed a detached, realistic light on what leads to addiction.

In this article and the next several ones, I am going to explore 14 triggers as to why someone may become an addict. My hope is that you will begin to understand (though difficult) that there are stimulus and unforeseen situations that can be outside of your control, and therefore can lead to addiction. The more you understand about substance abuse, the better your chances are of coping with the situation successfully.

1. The family itself is involved in drugs or alcohol
2. The neighborhood is drug-infested
3. The "addiction gene" is passed on
4. The desire to belong, to be accepted, and to be popular
5. Feeling lonely or depressed; anything to take away the pain
6. Experimentation that turns into addiction
7. Trauma
8. Boredom
9. Low self-esteem
10. Glamorized -- the cool, hip thing to do
11. The only way to "party"; fame and/or fortune will give immunity from addiction
12. Weight reducer or energizer to keep up with challenges
13. Prescription medication turns into dependency
14. Expectations and/or pressure from family to adhere to social status/performance.

Keep in mind that many of these triggers are interchangeable. Boredom and feeling lonely or depressed are kissing cousins, just as the neighborhood and family can be intertwined regarding substance abuse.

Here is a more in depth look at the first gateway and in next week's blog we will continue through the list.

1) The family itself is involved in drugs or alcohol

It is very hard for a child to remain drug free if their family with whom they are living with is abusing drugs or alcohol on a regular and/or open basis. An adult has the option of walking away whereas children are a captive audience. Instinctively, the child may know this is not how most families function, but they will have grown so accustomed to this kind of lifestyle that it is all they can relate to. We all know that a child learns good or bad habits by their parents' behavior.

In addition, a child can be easily influenced if they witness a loved one having a "good time" with alcohol, so it may stand to reason that they too should expect the same good time if they indulge. There is a fine line between what is responsible social drinking and irresponsible even out of control behavior due to excessive alcohol intake. The same is true for a drug-infested home.

A serious drinking problem or drug use often becomes the footsteps for that child to follow, since this has been the only exposure they have had. Keep in mind that the family involvement in drugs and or alcohol can range from ghetto dwellers to multi-millionaires. Drug and alcohol abuse knows no social-economic boundaries.

Answer? The child that grows up in a family where everyone participates in a drug and/or alcohol lifestyle may not have an ally to help him or her break out of such a toxic environment. The child may not even be aware of this injustice and be innocent as to the damage that is being psychologically inflicted upon them. If you suspect that a child is exposed to this way of life, contact Child Welfare Services. Your call is confidential and a social worker will be dispatched to the home no questions asked. Or visit the child's school and talk to their teacher or principle.

One last word: a family that is involved in drugs or alcohol is not necessarily an unloving one, it is just an irresponsible one.

If you have a question about substance abuse, please e-mail me at Each week I will choose 1 or 2 and answer them in my blog.

Thank you, and I invite you to visit my website, Family Recovery Solutions.

Popular in the Community


HuffPost Shopping’s Best Finds