Addiction: Causes And Risk Factors
Addiction is not usually the result of a single issue, but the combination of three main risk factors including biological factors, environmental risks and influences, and drug type and administration.
Someone’s genetic predisposition, or DNA, and co-occurring mental illnesses can both increase the likelihood of addiction.
A study found that drug addiction is nearly 50 percent reliant on genes passed down through generations of family members. The study noted that children of addicted people were eight times more likely to become addicted in their lifetimes.
Mental health disorders, or mental illnesses, can also lead to an increased chance of addiction. If a mental health disorder such as depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or post-traumatic stress disorder is present, an individual is more likely to use drugs. This may be in an attempt to self-medicate the symptoms felt by the mental health disorder, like painful feelings, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
Another biological factor that is still controversial among addiction researchers is gender. Some studies, completed at addiction treatment centers, have found that addiction can be gender-based and that there are a larger number of men who become addicted compared to women.
Mayo Clinic also reports that changes in the brain that are the result of repeated drug use can change the way the brain feels pleasure. The addictive substance causes physical changes to some nerve cells (neurons) in the brain, resulting in an interruption to the brain’s communication system. In some cases, this structural and chemical change can remain even after the substance is no longer being abused, and sometimes it is permanent.
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Environmental Risks And Influences
Environmental risks and influences, such as family beliefs, peer groups that encourage substance use, or stress, can lead to an increased likelihood of addiction.
Homelife can be a very influential factor. Some studies suggest that children who have come from abusive or neglectful households are more likely to become addicted in their lifetimes. Often, drugs and alcohol are used as an emotional substitute for the unhappiness felt at home.
In addition to abusive homes, homes that allow children to be around and have access to drugs or alcohol more frequently can influence children and lead to substance use or alcohol use disorder later on.
A person’s age can also impact their chances of becoming addicted. Studies indicate that the younger someone is when first exposed to drugs or alcohol, the more likely they are to develop an addiction. Using drugs while the brain is still growing and developing during adolescence can affect the way some brain structures form and function, making addiction more likely later in life.
Peer pressure, most likely occurring during teenage years when people are more susceptible to suggestion, can also lead to addiction. The pressure felt by some individuals to be socially accepted and liked by their peers is a common reason for trying drugs. It can be very difficult for teens to feel they can say “no” to their friends, so some may go along with drug use in order to feel like they fit in.
Stress is another environmental factor that can influence the chances of addiction. Poor coping skills can lead to an inability to handle day-to-day stress. High levels of chronic stress can change the chemical composition of the brain and lead to drug and alcohol misuse as a way of escaping life stressors.
This is especially true of jobs that come with a lot of innate pressure and stress, like positions in the stock exchange or major banking corporations. People in these professions may turn to drugs as a way to deal with the pressure and long work-days.
Drug Type And Administration
Drug type and administration can be risk factors for addiction as well. Depending on the kind of drug someone tries first or has started to use, addiction may be more or less likely to occur. Drugs like heroin or meth are extremely addictive, and someone taking these drugs, compared to drugs with less potency, like marijuana, has more potential to develop a drug dependency with continued use.
Drug administration, or the way in which the drug is used, can potentially increase the likelihood of addiction. When drugs are injected or smoked, they tend to take effect much faster than when they are taken orally. Although the “high” from injecting and smoking also tend to be more intense, it doesn’t last as long as with other ways of administration, so individuals may use the drug more frequently in order to maintain their high. This can be a slippery slope toward addiction.
Although it is possible for individuals with these risk factors not to become addicted, people with these risk factors in their lives have shown an increased chance of becoming addicted.
It is possible for anyone to develop a substance use problem. Everyone is different, and some may experience more severe addictions depending on this factor and others.
Polydrug Use And Addiction
With the growing understanding of addiction as a disease that requires adequate treatment, researchers are noticing a growing number of individuals who suffer from addiction to more than one substance.
Among people who had abused drugs but had not yet become addicted, 30.6 percent abused more than one substance. Among those who were addicted, 55.7 percent used more than one substance, and 17.3 percent were addicted to more than one substance.
Research also suggests that other behavioral manifestations of addiction, like obesity, gambling, and sex addiction, share common brain and genetic pathways with addictions involving substances. When a treatment plan is focused on one specific addictive substance or behavior, it’s possible that it is not addressing the disease of addiction as a whole, but just a portion of it.
Addiction Is A Disease
Addiction can range from mild to moderate to severe, depending on the course of the disease and its symptoms. Some people may experience one episode where their symptoms meet the clinical criteria for addiction and are non-symptomatic afterward. However, it is more common for addiction to be a chronic disease.
Very few people with addiction receive effective or evidence-based treatment, and the standard approach to treatment often involves brief interventions, rather than long-term chronic disease management. High rates of relapse often result and may be due, in part, to the manner in which addiction treatment is being approached.
Treatment For Drug And Alcohol Addiction
Admitting that there is a problem is the first step toward addiction recovery. Addiction is a lifelong disease and finding proper treatment is extremely important. Knowing the causes and risk factors of addiction may help a person see how addiction may be affecting them and take the first step in finding help.
Contact us to learn more about addiction causes, risk factors, and treatment.