While genetic disposition, social exposure, and environment contribute to the onset of addiction, repeated use leading to addiction is also driven by psychological factors. One study found that past traumatic events and psychological function make up two of the four most effective risk factors for explaining repeated substance use.
A history of psychological issues, particularly trauma and anxiety, increases the risk of developing an alcohol or substance addiction. Individuals struggling with these issues commonly self-medicate by using drugs or alcohol to avoid unpleasant thoughts, feelings, or memories.
With regular use over several years, drugs and alcohol can change the way the brain works by altering the parts responsible for reward, motivation, memory, impulse control, and judgment. When addiction takes a foothold, cravings increase drastically and ultimately impair an individual’s ability to control impulses, even when they know the consequences of continued use.