What Causes Substance Abuse Disorders?

Substance abuse disorder is a widespread problem that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or socioeconomic status. Although the exact cause of substance abuse disorders is not fully understood, research suggests that it may be due to a combination of factors, including biological and environmental influences. Neurobiology has been shown to contribute to an increased risk of developing a substance abuse disorder, as certain genetic traits or brain changes are thought to influence the development of addiction.

Mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety have increased the likelihood of abusing substances. Environmental influences such as peer pressure, access to drugs, trauma and stress can also play a role in the development of this disorder. Understanding these potential causes can help individuals better understand why someone may be struggling with substance abuse.


Substance abuse disorders are complex and vary from person to person. However, it is essential to remember that anyone can be at risk. A person’s biology, mental health status and environment all contribute to the risk of developing a substance abuse disorder. Some commonly abused substances include:


Alcohol is an especially dangerous substance, as it can be abused in various ways. It is one of the most commonly used and abused substances due to its accessibility and availability. 

Alcohol is also known to be highly addictive. It can lead to serious health problems such as liver damage, increased risk of cancer, brain damage, dependence, depression, anxiety and even death if consumed in large amounts over extended periods.


Opioids are a class of drugs that act on the nervous system to produce feelings of pain relief and euphoria. These drugs can be highly addictive due to their ability to quickly change brain chemistry, leading to physical and psychological dependence. Opioids are commonly abused due to their potent effects on the body, including intense pleasure or relaxation followed by extreme drowsiness. Long-term opioid abuse can also lead to numerous health complications, such as liver damage, respiratory failure, kidney failure and coma.


Marijuana is another commonly abused substance. It has been shown to have a high potential for abuse as it can produce powerful effects on the body and mind. Marijuana’s active ingredient, THC, stimulates the brain’s reward centers, leading to euphoria, relaxation and increased appetite. While these effects may be enjoyable in the short-term, long-term use of marijuana can lead to reduced cognitive functioning, memory loss and decreased motivation.


Cocaine is a powerful stimulant that impacts the brain quickly and powerfully, creating a sense of euphoria and alertness. Long-term use can lead to severe cognitive problems such as memory loss, confusion and paranoia. Additionally, cocaine has been linked to increased heart rate and blood pressure, which can create dangerous health risks such as cardiac arrest or stroke. There are also other risks from drugs that can be laced with cocaine like Fentanyl. 


Amphetamines are highly addictive stimulants that can produce powerful effects on the body and mind. This class of drugs includes substances such as Adderall, Ritalin and methamphetamine (meth).Some patients may need Adderall, which results in positive effects. But it should be prescribed by a mental health professional. Amphetamines act on the central nervous system to stimulate brain activity, improving users’ focus and energy levels. However, long-term use can lead to serious mental health concerns, including anxiety, paranoia, aggression and addiction.

Stages of Addiction


During this stage, individuals may try drugs or alcohol out of curiosity or peer pressure but not necessarily become addicted. From there, dependency can develop if continued use leads to physical dependence on the substance.

Frequent Use

At this stage, individuals may begin to use the substance regularly with increasing frequency and quantity. This can happen as tolerance develops and users need more of the drug to achieve the same effect.

Problems Develop

The individual may experience physical and psychological issues due to substance use. This can include mood swings, relationship problems, financial troubles and health concerns. Additionally, the user may begin to prioritize their substance use over other interests, such as work or relationships.


At this stage, the individual is likely unable to stop their use on their own and may experience withdrawal symptoms when not using. This can lead to an inability to control their behaviors, leading to consequences such as legal troubles or health complications.

Help for Substance Abuse

If you are struggling with substance abuse, help is available. Seeking professional help from a mental health professional is an important step towards recovery. Contact Jonas Hill for an appointment to take the first step toward wellness. Numerous resources are available to provide the necessary support to help manage addiction.

Jonas Hill Hospital & Clinic, a division of Caldwell Memorial Hospital, provides our community with safe, dignified, and integrated care for adult patients experiencing acute mental health needs. We provide hope, treatment, and healing through a holistic program of evidence-based psychiatric treatment, team-based medical care, and education by engaging and dedicated professionals in a safe and healing environment. Contact us today for more information—a safe space to heal.