Understanding Addiction: Why Do Some People Become Addicts?
There is no single factor that predicts whether a person that starts using drugs will become addicted or not. An individual’s risk for addiction is often influenced by a combination of biological and environmental factors, including:
- Genetics: Individuals hereditary genes can play a significant role in developing an addiction. For example, children with an addicted parent are four times more likely than children without an addicted parent to become addicts themselves. Furthermore, over 60 percent of individuals struggling with alcoholism have a family history of alcoholism.
- Underlying psychiatric conditions: Many individuals who are suffering from an underlying psychiatric condition such as anxiety, depression, or mood illnesses, have a higher chance at becoming an addict; and vice versa. An addiction typically starts when psychiatric disorders overwhelm individuals with feelings of sadness, anger, confusion, etc. Burdened with these feelings individuals may look for a self-medicating solution that can lead to drug or alcohol addiction.
- Social Environment: An individual who lives, works, or goes to school in an environment saturated with drug addiction is also more likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Factors such as peer pressure, societal norms, access to alcohol and drugs, etc. can all play a part in this.
- Trauma: Suffering from a traumatic event, such as abuse or neglect during childhood, sexual abuse, the loss of a loved one, etc. can strongly factor into an individual’s choice to use alcohol and drugs.
While a single reason or a combination of factors can be the cause of an individual’s struggle with addiction, there are some circulating myths that can give people a feeling of invincibility from addiction. Unfortunately, no one is safe from how addictive substances affect the human body and mind and anyone can become an addict.
Following are some of the myths affiliated with how people become addicted and the reality behind them:
Myth: I can tell if I am going to get addicted to a substance or not, so I can choose to stop before that happens.
Reality: It is almost impossible to tell the exact moment when any given person is going to succumb to the pitfalls of alcohol and drug addiction. It can strike anyone at anytime and a person cannot simply stop his or her substance abuse to avoid addiction.
Addiction is widely recognized as a chronic brain disease because of the way in which certain substances affect the physical, emotional and metal attributes of the human body. Alcohol and drugs alter the brain chemistry of the user in the human body’s attempt to function properly while under the influence. This process changes the cell structure of the body and causes the individual to develop a dependence on the substance to survive.
In laymen’s terms, an individual cannot predict when he or she will become addicted to stop using before it happens. The biological changes from substance abuse can happen quickly and without notice, hindering the individual’s ability to recognize that he or she is actually struggling with addiction.
Myth: There is an addiction gene that guarantees that you will become an addict if you have it, or are not susceptible to addiction if you do not have it.
Reality: Despite the fact that 50% of addictive predispositions are attributed to genes, there is no definitive evidence that genes alone will cause an individual to become addicted to drugs or alcohol.
As stated above, addiction is often caused by a combination of factors that can – and most likely do – include genetics, but that is not to say that individuals that don’t have a family history or genes associated with addiction will not develop an addiction if they abuse alcohol and drugs. Again, everyone is susceptible to addiction and at any time.
Myth: It is a choice to become an addict.
Reality: Addiction is a chronic brain disease and just as individuals wouldn’t choose to be diagnosed with cancer or diabetes, it is not a choice to become addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The initial choice to take the first drink and/or use for the first time may have been a choice, but it is the substance itself combined with changes in brain chemistry that can lead an individual to continue abusing alcohol and/or drugs and develop an addiction.
Answering the question of why certain individuals become addicts while others do not is far from easy. As a matter of fact, there may never be one solidified answer. The most important thing to understand is that addiction can happen to anyone at anytime.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, don’t hesitate to seek the drug rehab treatment you need. It’s true that addiction can happen to anyone, but recovery can too!
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