Understanding Addiction as a Developmental Disorder: An Argument for a Developmentally Informed Multilevel Approach

Curr Addict Rep. 2015;2(4):326-330. doi: 10.1007/s40429-015-0079-2. Epub 2015 Oct 10.


Substance abuse and drug addiction are two of the most common psychopathologies among the general population. While a host of risk factors are associated with the onset of drug abuse and drug addiction, there is a growing body of evidence pointing to the powerful influence of early adverse experiences, both child neglect and maltreatment, as well as drug use and abuse in parents and/or primary caretakers. We consider the case for drug addiction as a developmental disorder, outlining the need to consider the role of genetic, epigenetic, and neurobiological factors alongside experiences of adversity at key stages of development. Such a multilevel approach within a developmental framework has the potential to reframe our understanding of how addiction emerges and is maintained, and is essential if we are to identify the mechanisms underlying this disorder to better inform effective treatment and prevention across the generations.

Keywords: Addiction; Childhood maltreatment; Epigenetics; Intervention; Substance use disorders (SUDs).

Publication types

  • Review