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Introduction to Causes of Addiction

A. Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP, Kaushik Misra, Ph.D., Amy K. Epner, Ph.D., and Galen Morgan Cooper, Ph.D. , edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

In the previous chapter, we established our working definition of Addiction:

"Addiction is repeated involvement with a substance or an activity, despite the substantial harm it now causes, because that involvement was (and may continue to be) pleasurable and/or valuable."

This definition is descriptive; i.e., it does not explain what causes addiction to develop in the first place. While current addictions research provides a better understanding of the possible causes of addiction, we cannot point to any one single cause. Scientific research has helped us understand the many possible causes of addiction.

At the onset, we admit the limitations of scientific study. Science can only study measurable things. Because some interesting and meaningful topics are not easily measured, scientists cannot conduct research on these topics. We obviously can't measure God or other intangible concepts. We do not seek to enter into a debate about the merits of spirituality with respect to addiction. We are responsibly identifying that our bias is toward science. This is because psychology is a scientific approach to understanding human behavior. Nevertheless, we appreciate that researchers have identified spirituality as a helpful component in the treatment of many diseases and disorders. This includes addictions treatment. In this section, we will discuss the Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual Model (BPSS) of addiction. This model includes the valuable contributions of both the scientific and the spiritual. This union strengthens our understanding of addiction.