Underlying Causes of Addiction

Underlying Causes of Addiction - Greenestone Muskoka Addiction Treatment Centre - Main1

We dive into the underlying causes of addiction, what to know and how to be able to help someone in need.

Addiction is thought of as a secondary disease. It is thought of that way because most often it is secondary to something else. In other words, there is some other problem that addiction is covering. What inpatient treatment facilities find time and time again is that a person coming in with an addiction will be using drugs or alcohol as a way to cope. They drink or take drugs to help themselves get over certain problems. Let’s take a look at what is often seen as the underlying causes of addiction.

The vast majority of the country has had a drink in the past year. They are familiar with the effects of alcohol. When someone has a drink, it begins to change the nervous system typically within ten minutes of the first sip. That is one of the fastest impacts of most psychoactive substances. Alcohol also serves to relax a person, make them drowsy, forgetful, sometimes euphoric and makes it difficult for them to think. Take a moment and think about all of that. Alcohol works quickly, makes a person relax and forget. Those are some of the best ingredients of a coping skill.

Coping skills are thought of as deliberate actions taking by a person as a means to help reduce or manage stress. With what we know about drugs and alcohol, they change how a person thinks and feels. That is essentially the purpose of a coping skill. When a person is struggling with some underlying issue, they may stumble across the connection that when they drink or use, they feel better. Soon, they will be using substances more frequently. As tolerance increases, they will need to use more and more to get the same results. By this point, they will be deep into their addiction, and it will have taken on a life of its own. They will no longer be using substances to cope with an underlying issue; they will be using substances just to feed their addiction and fight off withdrawal.

Now, this led to people asking what causes people to start using drugs and alcohol in the first place? Research has begun to show a lot of the connections between underlying issues and substance abuse. There have been many connections found between stressful life circumstances and addiction. One of the biggest correlations that have been found is between substance abuse and stressful change. Loss can be one of the biggest triggers of substance abuse. Divorce, job loss, or loss of a home can easily lead someone down the road to addiction. A person will be looking to get out of their head a little bit, just get some relief from the pressure they are feeling. This starts out as just taking a couple extra pills, and lead to someone with a serious addiction to opioids.

There are also other long term problems that can lead to addiction as well. Mental illness has been highly correlated with substance abuse. Some of the more common mental illnesses are among the highest associated with addiction. This includes depression, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia. Mental health concerns are some of the most common underlying conditions that lead to addiction. It makes sense also. Drugs and alcohol are psychoactive substances that change how a person thinks and feels. The work quickly and are often quite effective.

A person with depression may be struggling with the feelings and thoughts that come with that terrible mental illness, but drinking takes it all away. A person with depression often feels sad, hopeless, unable to do anything, and thinks very poorly about themselves as a result. They would welcome the relief. Unfortunately, the drinking becomes its own separate issue, as it crosses over to addiction. Soon they are drinking because the addiction is making them do it, even if they don’t want to do it anymore.

Stress and mental illness are not the only reasons that a person would turn to drugs or alcohol as a means to cope. A person who has been through a trauma may struggle with the aftermath. A trauma can mean many different things to each person, but it almost always involves a life-threatening situation. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can leave a person struggling with resolving the trauma. Traumatic events will sometimes leave scars that are invisible to the eye, but which nag and tear at the individual for a long time without intervention and treatment.

While there are many different reasons a person may turn to substances, there is hope. At an inpatient treatment unit, they are specially trained to understand a person who is addicted. They provide them with assessments and the appropriate treatment for the underlying causes of addiction. Inpatient rehab can give someone their best chance of getting off drugs or alcohol, and staying off them.

Addiction has many causes, but most of it comes from using substances as a means to cope. The people who are addicted are just trying to get by, and they need to be understood within that framework. Inpatient treatment can address all of these needs, and treat the whole problem, not just the addiction. When the underlying cause of addiction is treated inpatient, it gives the client the best chances to stay in recovery for the rest of their life.

Don’t hesitate to contact an addiction specialist to get some questions answered, help someone in need or any information related to addiction.

Mutual Aid Groups


Engagement in meaningful activities, community belongingness and connecting with individuals who share similar goals, are all important components of recovery. Mutual aid groups offer all of the above with the additional benefits of finding support through others who have experienced similar challenges. Also known as self-help groups, groups of this nature are designed to decrease the shame associated with substance use and mental health, instill hope in their members, and pool the collective knowledge of each individual involved. Connecting with peers in various stages of recovery offers us the opportunity to both learn and teach others about community supports, coping strategies and overcoming barriers in a safe and supportive environment.

Mutual aid groups are available with a variety of differing themes; a few examples of popular mutual aid groups focused on drug and alcohol recovery include the 12-Step program (AA, NA, CA), SMART Recovery and Women for Sobriety. Substance specific groups are not the only options for those interested in recovery, support groups for depression, PTSD, grief and so on, can also provide the benefit of connecting with others who have shared similar experiences and who have the common purpose of finding and giving support. These groups are particularly helpful for those living with chronic substance use as many are available indefinitely and allow members to engaged, disengage, and re-engage when needed. Each group is unique in terms of their members, dynamic and atmosphere. Try not to get discouraged if you do not find the best fit right away, you may need to try a variety before you feel at home.


The most widely recognized mutual aid group is Alcohols Anonymous. Operational since 1935, the AA fellowship has deterred some due to it’s assumed connection with God. Step two asks us to believe that “a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity”, this power is not necessarily related to religion or God and can be decided upon by the individual; no religious affiliation is required to be involved in the 12-step community. Meetings can include speakers with lived experience, discussion groups and work on the steps themselves. The 12-Step community also promotes connection to a ‘sponsor’ who is an individual cemented in their own recovery who can offer support and guidance on an individual basis. For more information on AA, the 12 steps and how to find meetings in your area, please visit: https://www.aa.org/

Twelve step programing is an important component of Greenestone’s treatment program, while it remains optional, it is highly encouraged by our treatment staff. Greenestone hosts three on-site meetings each week incorporating Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Each Thursday, Greenestone opens its doors to our community members with an open meeting; any Greenestone alumni, local residents, vacationers or those interested in trying 12 steps are welcome to attend. To supplement, staff members will provide our clients transportation and support to local 12 step groups in Port Carling, Bala, and Gravenhurst when possible.


Each client of Greenestone will have a chance to connect with our onsite aftercare specialist and discharge planner who offer support in developing personalized recovery plans and connecting our client’s to resources in their communities.

If you are an active AA member or exploring addiction recovery and are in the Muskoka area, please feel free to join us each Thursday from 8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. for our open speaker meeting. For more information, please call us at (705)762-5501.

Canada’s Lower Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines

Cannabis Use Guidelines

At Greenestone Muskoka we encourage an abstinence-based lifestyle but we recognize that each individuals journey is different; we aim to embrace the desires and needs of each person which includes meeting all of our clients where they are at. With the recent legalization of Cannabis in 2018, it’s important to draw light to harm reduction, especially in regards to substances that are legal in Canada. Harm reduction is an approach used to reduce the harms associated with drug use for those who are not prepared to discontinue their use of substances. The goal is to find the safest way to continue use that will result in the least amount of health and social impacts.

The following is a list of 10 guidelines of Lower Risk Cannabis Use developed by the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse and funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

  1. Abstinence is the only way to ensure you do not experience any impacts of cannabis use: all substances, if misused, can lead to health, social, financial, and possibly legal consequences. The only way to completely avoid the risks associated with cannabis and other drugs is to not use them.
  2. Delay cannabis use for as long as possible: as our brains continue to develop into early adulthood, using cannabis at a young age increases all associated risks, especially in those younger than 16.
  3. Use products with lower amounts of THC: products with higher amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) are more likely to cause dependence and/or mental health issues. Choose products lower in THC and higher CBD (cannabidiol). CBD products have been linked to support pain and anxiety relief, speak to a health care profession for more information.
  4. Do not use synthetic cannabis products: these products are dangerous and can lead to serious health complications including seizure and death (example: K2, spice).
  5. Avoid smoking cannabis: smoking anything can increase negative health impacts on our lungs. If engaging in cannabis use, safer use methods include vaping and edibles.
  6. If smoking, avoid inhaling deeply: deeply inhaling smoked products and holding the breath can put us at increased risk for absorption of chemicals and the development of lung problems.
  7. Limit the frequency of your use: using cannabis frequently will increase the likelihood of developing a dependence or experiencing negative consequences. Limit your use to 1-2 times weekly.
  8. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery: cannabis impairs our judgement and reaction time; the effects of cannabis use can last 6+ hours. When combined with alcohol, impairment will increase. It is illegal to drive a vehicle while impaired by cannabis.
  9. Avoid use if you have a personal or family history of mental illness and/or addiction, or if you are pregnant: users who identify with the above are at increased likelihood of experiencing risks associated with cannabis use.
  10. Avoid combining any of the above-mentioned factors: the purpose of these guidelines is to reduce the risk of harm associated with cannabis use. The most risks you take, the greater chance you have of experiencing negative impacts.

Cannabis Use Guidelines

Please take note that these guidelines have been developed for recreational use of cannabis and do not apply to cannabis use for medical purposes. If you are concerned about your medical cannabis consumption, please connect with your prescribing doctor. If you have concerns regarding your recreational use of cannabis, please call Greenestone Muskoka at (705)762-5501 to speak with one of our intake workers on the supports available to you.


Fischer, B., Russell, C., Sabioni, P., van den Brink, W., Le Foll, B., Hall, W., Rehm, J. & Room, R. (2017). Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines (LRCUG): An evidence-based update. American Journal of Public Health, 107 (8). DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.303818.

My experience at Greenestone Muskoka – A client’s testimonial

My experience at Greenestone Muskoka

The following interview was completed by an individual who successfully completed the Greenestone Muskoka’s 45-day inpatient treatment program in early 2019.


Where was your life at before coming to Greenestone?
“It was a disaster, I couldn’t go on the way I was living, I was out of options. A friend of mine had been through the program (at Greenestone) before. I needed something different, a new way of living. What I was doing to be clean on my own was not working”

Why did you choose Greenestone?
“I heard it was a lovely facility that had all of the amenities I needed with a beautiful scenery. It was a get-a-way from my fast-paced life in the city”
What did you learn while you were at Greenestone that helped you the most in early recovery?

“I learned a lot, I learned that I had a disease, not a moral deficiency, I wasn’t aware of that. I learned that I was not the only person who was suffers from this, it (can be) hereditary. I learned many coping skills and tools and I learned that life can be beautiful.”

What made the biggest difference in your treatment?
“I couldn’t go on the way I was living, I didn’t have a choice. I got involved with 12 step programming… it’s like a family now.”
“The counsellors and supports were great but I had to be the one to do the work”

How is Greenestone a part of your recovery today?
“I try to stay in touch, I keep in touch with the people I was here with (co-residents). I am very grateful for what they have done for me, I wouldn’t be clean otherwise.”

How long have you been in recovery for and what is most important to your recovery?
“Three months and 17 days.”
“I go to 12 step meetings everyday. I do service work within the 12-step community. I want to give back. I keep a busy schedule and I took my life back. I put my recovery first and take things day-by-day.”

If there anything else you would like to say about your experience at Greenestone?
“The counsellors are wonderful, I learned a lot of life lessons and how to live life without the use of drugs. I am very thankful for my experience and stay (at Greenestone), I would recommend it to anyone who asked me”

Do you have any advice for anyone interested in addiction treatment?
“You get out what you put in, you have to put the hard work in to get success. Be proactive in your recovery. Get on the right path or you won’t get anything out of it.”

• Past male client of Greenestone Muskoka

Supporting loved ones through addiction and recovery

To some, it may sound counterintuitive, but addiction is a disease. Similar to cancer or diabetes, addiction targets brain and body functions while having lasting impacts on many areas of a person’s life. Being witness to the suffering of a close friend or family member is heartbreaking to say the least; when it comes to addiction, it can be difficult to know how to provide care and support to those afflicted. Supporting a loved one through addiction and recovery is the strong foundation the addict will need in order to succeed in the hard journey to come.

Showing compassion and support to those who are seemingly hurting themselves with drug and/or alcohol use is challenging, but that is exactly what is needed to foster recovery. Individuals engaged in patterns of substance abuse frequently get trapped in cycles of shame and guilt and use substances to numb these feelings along with stress, trauma, mental illness and more. Our reaction to our loved one’s substance abuse can unfortunately perpetuate these feeling when our concern comes out as anger and frustration. Below are some strategies you can use to both protect yourself and to support someone living with a substance use disorder.

  1. Set boundaries – when we care for another it can be difficult to say no or to stand our ground. You are well within your right to draw firm boundaries with a loved one living with a substance use disorder. Be sure to communicate your boundaries clearly and calmly, ideally, before it becomes an issue. Protecting your own wellbeing will better equip you to support another.
  2. Communicate – communicating your feeling can be challenging under the best of circumstances; when in close proximity to someone living with a substance use issue can add additional stress. Strive for open, honest and kind dialogue. Express what supports you are able to provide and ask as many questions as you need to. Aim to understand what role your loved one wants to you to play in their recovery.
  3. Use “I” statements – when communicating concerns try presenting them as “I” statements: “I feel _______ when you _______ because _______ I need _______”. “I” statements allow us to assert our thoughts and concerns openly and honestly without placing blame on an individual which can promote feelings of shame.
  4. Offer support and encouragement (if you can) – once you have drawn and communicated your boundaries, offering support for one’s recovery can have lasting impacts. You can start small by offer to do research on treatment options, drive a loved one to appointments or 12 step meetings or just check in from time to time. You can also identify yourself as someone they can turn to when times are hard and provide emotional support. You can encourage your loved one to seek treatment but remember, treatment is most successful with the individual is internally motivated to make changes in their life.

Impacts of addiction span wide and include strain on relationships, particularly those with close family members. Therefore we encourage all family members seek support for themselves while loved ones are working towards sobriety in their own parallel recovery. This can take many forms including: counseling, support groups, self-care, self-reflection, and reconnecting to community. If you are experiencing compassion fatigue or burnout, it is essential that you seek … symptoms include physical and emotional exhaustion, irritability, difficulty sleeping.

Tension runs high in families affected by addiction, it is more than likely that there are unresolved issues that need to be addressed with friend or family members who live with substance use disorders. Early recovery is fragile and those new to sobriety should focus each day on not drinking or using. Further along in a loved one’s recovery, once stability has been achieved, you may want to explore family counseling.

Do I Have a Drinking /Drug Problem? 10 Questions to Ask

No one wants to admit it. It’s hard to do. But if you’re looking at this list, you’re questioning whether or not you have a drinking/drug problem. Millions of individuals find themselves faced with this question every year, so you’re not alone.

Go through these questions, answer them honestly and they’ll help you find the answer to your question.