Addiction is often found to be the result of a complex combination of many factors. Just as no two people are alike, no two addictions are alike. Each person’s demons are dictated by their personality and the experiences which make up their life. There are however four main areas which have a great influence on addiction.
Heredity is the process of parents passing traits or characteristics on to their children. Genetics determines a person’s physical appearance such as hair color and eye color. Behavioral traits are also passed down via genetics. This determines how a person acts, if he or she is outgoing or shy or even their temperament. A predisposition to medical conditions is also a trait that is passed from parent to child. This explains how some families have a much higher occurrence of cancer than other families. Genetics has also been found to play a significant part in addiction. Scientists have even been able to link specific genes to addiction. For example, the A1 allele of the dopamine receptor gene DRD2 is associated with alcohol and cocaine addiction.
Environmental factors have also been found to have a great impact on addiction. Peer pressure and stress have been found to be leading causes of addiction. Teens and young adults form many of their opinions based on the actions of their friends and will adopt beliefs more quickly from friends than parents or family. In addition, younger children are likely to view drugs and alcohol as less dangerous or potentially addictive if they were raised in an environment where they were used frequently. Even poor parental supervision can increase a child’s chances of becoming an addict. The lack of direction when children are learning and forming opinions can lead to them making bad choices. The results of those choices can follow them their entire life.
Trauma is another factor that can lead to addiction. Adverse childhood experiences can cause stress, confusion and emotional issues for children. In many cases the children do not want to understand the issues and will simply try to forget them. But left unaddressed the issues only compound and become more complex. Issues of physical, sexual and verbal abuse, witnessing violence or neglect can all increase the risk of a child experimenting with drugs and alcohol and becoming addicted at an early age.
Mental health can also be a contributing factor for addiction. Anxiety and mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder result in a person being twice as likely to have a substance abuse issue. Often a person will be diagnosed as having co-occurring disorders or getting a dual diagnosis of addiction and a mental health disorder.
As many of these issues begin in childhood or early adolescence, recognition and outreach are critical. Parents, siblings and other family members need to be aware of the signs of addiction or factors which could potentially lead to addiction. Counseling and support are critical to helping a child or an adult find a real solution to their pain and suffering. Addiction is simply masking the true issues which must be discovered and treated to gain control over the addiction.
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