What Triggers Substance Abuse?

Factors that May Lead to Alcohol or Drug Addiction


According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, drug abuse or dependence can be caused by a number of factors such as “genetic vulnerability, environmental stressors, social pressures, individual personality characteristics, and psychiatric problems.” However, it is unknown which factor plays the largest role in whether or not someone will become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

A substance use disorder may start as the result of some event such as a job loss or divorce, or it could be due to the environment you were raised in. Researchers are still trying to determine the exact cause of addiction. 

Potential factors that may trigger substance abuse include:

  • Trauma
  • Financial stress
  • Environment
  • Family history
  • Mental health disorders
  • Peer pressure
  • Job loss
  • Loss of a close friend or family member
  • A serious injury
  • The end of a relationship

It is believed that millions of people suffer from a diagnosable substance use disorder. Substance use disorders commonly co-occur with mental health disorders such as general anxiety disorder and depression. For someone with a mental health concern, drugs and alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism. Unfortunately, using these substances to help cope with a situation or feeling can lead to additional problems.

It is important to seek treatment if you are unable to stop drinking or using drugs. Depending on a substance can result in serious health problems and may affect your job, relationships, and housing. Treatment can help to address the underlying addiction and work on any mental health issues that may be causing or co-occurring with the disease.