Much like the nature versus nurture debate in psychology, experts are divided on whether addiction is a disease or simply a condition that can be overcome. A growing majority believe that addiction isn’t a lack of willpower, but a complicated disorder stemming from genetics, one’s childhood, and even environmental factors.
Similar to the BRCA mutations that are associated with breast cancer, certain genes may indicate a presdisposition to addiction. People with these genes often find it harder to quit once they begin using drugs or alcohol, or their withdrawal symptoms will be more severe. Studies have found that addiction can be inherited to a degree, by way of genes passed down from parents. The good news is that with increased understanding of the role genetics plays in substance abuse, scientists are able to create medications that target certain addiction genes. By examining various animals, researchers have already discovered several of the target genes. For example, mice with a defective Per2 gene drink three times more alcohol than normal, while those lacking the Creb gene are less likely to become dependent on morphine. In studying these results, doctors practicing precision medicine can tailor treatment to a person’s specific genetic makeup.
Even if someone has one of these genes, addiction isn’t inevitable. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, genetics accounts for about half of a person’s vulnerability for addiction. Environmental factors play an important role in both increasing and decreasing risk. Addiction tends to begin in childhood, while the brain is still maturing and decision-making skills aren’t fully developed. A poor home life, particularly one where a parent or older relative is a drug user, increases the odds that a child will grow up with a substance use problem. Even if the parent is not a user, a poor upbringing is still a contributing factor. The chances of developing a problem are much higher in children who are never educated about the risks, or whose parents are never home to catch the warning signs of addiction.
The neighborhood where you live, work or go to school also plays a part in addiction. High crime, low income areas are often plagued with drugs. Sometimes this might be because there are no other opportunities for recreation available, because kids are left home alone with little parental support, or simply in an attempt to fit in. Impressionable teens will look at their community, see the older and “cooler” kids using drugs or drinking, and emulate this behavior. The school environment is also important, as an adolescent is vulnerable to peer pressure if their classmates use drugs or alcohol.
Trauma can also be a factor in addiction. Poor treatment and abuse, whether sexual or physical, increases the odds of a child turning to drugs or alcohol to cope. One study found that maltreated or abused children are seven times more likely to use drugs or alcohol by age 12.
No matter what led to your addiction, there is hope. Asana Recovery offers assisted detox, where a team of highly-trained medical professionals will administer the proper medication for your needs. Following detox, we offer both residential and outpatient treatment, where you can speak with both counselors and your peers in a safe, comfortable environment. Learning new ways to cope with your problems and how to focus on the positives in life will aid you on the path to recovery.