Specialty Behavioral Health

What are the causes of substance abuse and dependence?

Scientists believe that there are multiple causes of substance abuse and dependence. It appears that genetic and biological factors play a role. Certain people may be more at risk for developing a substance problem because of the way their bodies metabolize a certain substance or how it makes them feel.

Environmental factors are also very important in developing and maintaining substance problems. One of the best predictors of substance use is a person’s living environment. For example, the rate of alcohol abuse is high among college men who live in fraternity houses because alcohol is readily available and heavy use is seen as normal.

Finally, personal and psychological factors are related to substance problems. People who experience trauma or go untreated for depression, anxiety, and other disorders are at higher risk for developing a substance use problem because the substance may make them feel better temporarily.

See Links and Suggested Readings for more information about the causes of Substance Abuse and Dependence.