General: Most experts agree that a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors may predispose certain individuals to developing addictions.
Substance abuse: Initially, individuals may abuse drugs to get high. This desire to get high may stem from underlying causes, such as depression, bipolar disorder, stress, or low self-esteem. Others may try drugs out of curiosity or peer pressure. Once a person becomes addicted to a substance, it causes chemical changes in the brain that leads to intense drug cravings.
Recent studies suggest that trauma, substance abuse, and sexual risk behaviors are all interrelated For instance, women who were sexually abused (as a child or as an adult) may have a hard time refusing unwanted sex and may use drugs as a coping mechanism.
Some research suggests that genetics may play a role in certain types of drug addictions. For instance, people with family histories of alcoholism are more likely to begin drinking before the age of 20 and to become alcoholics.
Individuals who experiment with illegal drugs and alcohol before the age of 16 have an increased risk of becoming drug addicts.
It has also been suggested that tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana are gateway drugs that may lead to experimentation with more serious drugs, such as heroin or cocaine. However, this theory has not been proven, and it is considered controversial.
Gambling addiction: The exact cause of gambling addiction remains unknown. It has been suggested that chemicals in the brain, called serotonin, norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and dopamine, may be involved. These chemicals, also called neurotransmitters, allow nerve cells in the body to communicate. Serotonin helps regulate mood and behavior, norepinephrine helps the body handle stress, and dopamine causes the sensation of pleasure. It has been suggested that all three of these neurotransmitters may be involved in compulsive gambling.
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