Drug and alcohol addiction is a problem that affects millions of people in North America every single year. How does someone become addicted though, and why are some people at a much higher risk than others? Drug and alcohol addiction starts out with substance abuse, and when the individual uses alcohol or drugs it makes them feel good or prevents bad feelings. Crossing the line and becoming addicted happens at a different rate for each person. Sometimes drug and alcohol addiction has a genetic component, and can run along family lines. In other cases a person becomes addicted even though no other family members have this problem. Individuals who have suffered trauma or abuse as children are more likely to suffer from addiction later in life.
There is not a test that can definitively diagnose drug and alcohol addiction, instead questionnaires and screening are used to identify high risk individuals who are or may become addicted. Self reporting is the most common way to diagnose drug and alcohol addiction because the person abusing the substance seeks help for the addiction. Often the substance abuse fills an internal void or soothes bad feelings and emotions. You will eventually come to rely on the substance in order to feel normal because substance abuse causes abnormally high levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain. When your levels drop and the feel good feelings stop you are tempted to use the substance again to reverse this process. Eventually your brain will make less dopamine and other neurotransmitters as a result of the drug and alcohol addiction.