There was a time when people with substance use disorders were considered to have some sort of moral failing. Others would look down their noses and say, that person must have no willpower, or they were raised poorly, or even that there was something wrong with them spiritually. Today, we know that addiction has both genetic and environmental factors, and it can happen to people from all walks of life. The following are some reasons why people first decide to use drugs or are unable to stop using them.
There are certain genes that may indicate a predisposition to addiction. People with these genes sometimes find it harder to quit once they begin using drugs or alcohol, or their withdrawal symptoms will be more severe. Addiction can even be considered an inherited disease in a sense, because these genes can be passed down from one’s parents. For example, people addicted to alcohol or cocaine are more likely to have the A1 allele of the dopamine receptor gene DRD2. The sounds like a mouthful, but what it means is that a specific allele, or mutation of a gene, is present in a particular type of dopamine receptor that is involved in the reinforcing effects of a drug. As a result, people with that allele feel the rewarding effects of drugs more strongly.
Some people use drugs in order to escape a bad situation at home. A teenager might be tempted to sneak alcohol or experiment with drugs if his parents are constantly having violent fights. Someone living in a poor neighborhood who feels that he has no opportunities to advance in life might use in order to drown out feelings of helplessness or hopelessness. People living in an area controlled by gangs often become involved in drugs out of simple self-preservation, in order to fit in and not make waves.
People with emotional problems or mental health issues sometimes use drugs in an effort to cope with negative feelings. Someone with severe social anxiety might get drunk or high before attending a gathering, thinking it will make it easier to relax and talk to people. Someone suffering from depression might use in order to drown out the destructive thoughts.
Many people who become addicted to drugs, particularly opioids, are seeking relief from pain. Whether for chronic conditions like arthritis or acute pain such as following surgery, sometimes opioids do the best job of blocking pain. Unfortunately, because they are so addictive, many people continue using them long past when they should or begin taking larger amounts in order to feel the same effects.
Some people, particularly teenagers, do drugs in an attempt to assert their individuality or independence. Part of it is the thrill of doing something illegal, and sometimes it’s as simple as doing something you know your parents will disapprove of.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504.