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The Causes Of Addiction – Genetic, Learned, or Both?

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Some people only have to smoke, inject, or ingest drugs once or twice and they find themselves addicted to the substance. Others may use drugs recreationally on and off throughout their life and never struggle with quitting. So what causes a person to be an addict of drugs or alcohol, unable to say no or stop whenever they want? It turns out that there are many factors that determine whether or not you are facing a problem with addiction.

First Of All – What Is Addiction?

Many people believe that drug addicts are lazy and have little willpower, that if they really wanted to, they could just quit cold turkey. However, while taking the drug for the first time is usually voluntary, it is extremely difficult to overcome addiction, as it is not just a social problem, but also one of biology.

Drug addiction is a type of brain disease, one that is created by the use of dangerous substances. These drugs alter the brain’s functioning and structure. Over time, repeated use causes impaired decision-making, a lack of self-control, and increased impulsiveness. This happens because drugs and alcohol impair nerve functioning, causing miscommunication and overstimulating the pleasure centers of the brain.

Dopamine is the main culprit behind this flooding of the reward-focused part of the brain; this over-abundance of euphoria causes the user to associate drugs with feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Eventually, the brain reacts to this abundance of dopamine by decreasing its own production, and thus, the person must continue to use drugs in order to feel that sense of happiness, often having to use more and more as the brain becomes habituated.

Why Are Only Some Drug Users Considered Addicts?

There is a difference between a drug habit and a drug addiction. A habit is something that is done by choice and can be stopped whenever the user feels like it. An addiction is when the user can no longer control their habit. This happens when they cannot stop psychologically, when it begins to affect their health, or when it starts to wreak havoc on their daily responsibilities.

The three main factors for addiction are:

  • Biology – Gender, ethnicity, and mental health issues are all variables when it comes to addiction. When someone has a co-occurring health problem, one of their triggers for drug use is self-medication, which will likely cause drug use, reliance, and ultimately addiction.
  • Genetics – Having a family history of addiction increases your vulnerability as well. Although there hasn’t been one specific gene attributed to this, addiction does seem to have a genetic correlation. Many scientists believe that those who have a genetic predisposition to drugs suffer from a chemical imbalance in the body, while others believe that there are brain abnormalities that cause addiction.
  • Environment – From family and friends to socioeconomic status, to traumatic events, all these factors have been shown to be players in the causation of addiction. Having little to no support system due to bad relationships or lack of finances leaves fewer resources for the provision of care and poor role models.
  • If the user takes drugs to cope with stress or life problems rather than just out of curiosity or to be social, they may find themselves addicted because they depend on the substance to keep them stable. Also, choosing to smoke or inject a drug has the potential to increase its addictiveness.
  • Development – The earlier the drug use begins, the more ingrained in the brain it becomes, as the user is still in stages of development. It will have a larger effect on their ability to reason, make decisions, and use self-control.

Thus, some people can indeed use more than others and not be addicted, while those using less are. It’s not necessarily about the frequency of use, but rather the biological, environmental, and situational factors behind it.

The Good News For Addicts

Even if you’ve become addicted to drugs and they have altered your brain’s functioning and structure, drug rehabilitation can help. Through therapy, detox, medication, and a switch to a healthy lifestyle, you can reverse the disease. And you don’t need to hit rock bottom before receiving help. The sooner you admit to yourself that you have a problem, the better. Contact us today at Vertava Health to get started.