Do you sometimes wonder what the actual cause of addiction is? It’s a unique mix of risk factors and influences — genetic and environmental.
It’s uncommon that merely one thing drives an individual to addiction. Instead, it’s a heady mix of nature and nurture. Here’s how these work together to create a potentially devastating condition:
1. Dopamine handling
Some people are genetically predisposed to addiction. Such individuals are born with a certain genetic make-up in their dopamine receptors that makes them ‘enjoy’ potentially addictive substances more than ‘normal’ people. This increases the risk for addiction.
2. Psychological issues and self-medication
Genetics often influence indirectly. For instance, persons living with other psychiatric disorders associated with genes (such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc.) can have a tendency to self-medicate with an addictive substance. They feel ‘better’ with medication – this may lead to addiction.
Over time, escapist self-medication can escalate to addiction. In such cases, it is not a tendency toward addiction but the propensity for an underlying vulnerability that can lead to addiction.
Apart from genetics, environmental factors also play an important role.
1. Childhood trauma
Early life negative experiences, such as neglect, emotional or physical or sexual abuse, etc., can increase the risk for addictions regardless of genes.
According to a study, unresolved early life (prior to 18 years) trauma can lead to later-life problems. Survivors of chronic childhood trauma are:
- 1.8 times as likely to smoke cigarettes
- 1.9 times as likely to develop obesity
- 2.4 times as likely to experience anxiety
- 3.6 times as likely to be develop depression
- 3.6 times as likely to be promiscuous
- 7.2 times as likely to get into alcoholism
- 11.1 times as likely to become a drug addict
2. Early exposure to addictive substances or behavior
Early exposure to alcohol or drugs can lead to chronic addiction. In today’s world, kids are exposed to drugs such as marijuana and alcohol at a younger age (12 – 14 years) and are vulnerable to addiction in later years.
Due to Internet and the massive supply of easily accessible erotic content, children as young as 11 get their first exposure to porn.
About 41 percent of existing adult sex addicts were using porn before age 12. Studies indicate that the lower the age of first use, the higher the likelihood of addiction — sexual and otherwise. The cause of addiction isn’t nature or nurture. Both can come together in a person and influence his or her behavior.
Treatment is effective
Whatever the causes, the presenting problem may be an addicted person – abusing alcohol, drugs or indulging in some other damaging behavior. Recovery requires support from professionals.
Just as the causes may vary, treatment also needs to be individualized to suit the individual. Addiction therapy also involves helping the addict resolve his childhood issues.