The Causes Of Addiction

What causes addictions? Is it a choice or a disease?

Unless we gain new insight into the psychological and spiritual roots of addiction, we will never be able to provide the right conditions for recovery. 

The worldwide epidemic of addictions shows that the traditional approach has failed to provide the lasting cure so far. 

As we seek alternative treatments we come across ethnobotanicals like Iboga and other teacher plants. While these plant medicines are not a panacea,  but they do offer a unique  path for healing and recovery. 

What else must we know about addiction to provide comprehensive treatment that leads to full recovery? 

In search for answers to these questions we turn to paradigm-shifting researchers and doctors, such as Gabor Mate, (Canada) Jaque Mabit (France, Peru) who are pioneering a new, humane and holistic understanding of addiction treatment and recovery.  

We hope that the following quotes and resources will inspire you to participate in the discussion, to share and to contribute from your experience:

What do the experts say? Quotes by Dr. Gabor Mate MD:


“Something that recovery aims at finding is nothing less than oneself. So in recovery, we find ourselves.”

“Addiction is all about lack of peace. It’s all about internal unrest. It’s all about disconnection from the self. And so there is a part of us that created a conflict precisely to lead us to ourselves. It will go extreme measures to wake you up. It will make you suffer if you don’t listen to it. What else can it do? That is its purpose.”

"Emptiness is precisely the foundation for addiction. Whenever we feel empty, whenever we allow ourselves to become defeated, or whenever we are impaired from knowing who we are, whenever we are disconnected from ourselves, addiction can flood in.”

“Recovery is not just about stopping the addictive behavior; it’s about actually having something positive inside.”

“Addictions are not individual choices in their origins, nor are they determined by the genes, but they are manifestations of multi-generational, social, and familial processing.”

“So the real question to be asked is what is the basis of susceptibility for addiction. Attachment is a basic need for all human beings. Contrary to the capitalist myth that people are basically aggressive, hostile, and competitive creatures, we are actually not. We are wired for connection. We are wired for empathy. We are wired for attachment. The very simple reason is that without human relationships there are no human beings. It is not possible for the human species to have evolved unless there were powerful attachment, connections affection, context, culture, and support. It is impossible for the human infant to survive without the attachment of closeness and connection."

"What I’m saying about addiction, which is a form of unhealthy attachment, is that when healthy attachment doesn’t happen in the first place through our caregivers, other attachments happen. So when the attachment to relationship doesn’t work with our caregivers – when we are left without proper love, understanding, attunement, connection, validation, acceptance, or worse when we are abused and our attachment needs are actually trampled on, then we become attached to external things in order to substitute for what we didn’t get. So the lack of attachment early in life gives rise to an inordinate amount of attachment later to the wrong things, and so again, the human brain develops within an interaction with the environment.”

“So in a nutshell, what I’m saying to you is that the people most prone to addictions are the ones who had the toughest time early in life. Why? Because emotionally they had the most pain, and therefore, they most need to escape from that pain. Emotionally, they had the most disconnection from themselves, the they had the most emptiness. They had the need to fill that emptiness from the outside.  Biologically, the circuits in the brain that should give them sufficient endorphin and dopamine levels don’t function well because the condiditions for their development were inadequate.”

Canadian physician Gabor Maté is a specialist in terminal illnesses, chemical dependents, and HIV positive patients. Dr. Maté is a renowned author of books and columnist known for his knowledge about attention deficit disorder, stress, chronic illness and parental relations. His theme at TEDxRio+20 was addiction -- from drugs to power.

How do your emotions and brain relate in addiction?

“…Why the opitate drugs work, because we have receptors for them. Why do we have opiates in our brain? We have opiates in our brain for a) pain releif that we must have; b) a sense of pleasure and reward; and c) love and attachment. And when somebody has no real experience of love, connection, pain relief, or pleasure and reward, and they inject heroin for the first time, they are at peace for the first time. They feel whole for the first time."

“Dopamine receptors and dopamine is the incentive chemical. Without dopamine we are listless, unmotivated. We have no curiosity; we have no incentive, no vitality. Dopamine flows whenever we’re interested, curious, vital, engaged in investigating a novel object or a novel environment, seeking food, or seeking sexual partner.”

“Another point of addiction is that all addictions are a form of self-medication for some medical condition. People are not choosing it. They are self-medicating.”