Why Does Someone Become Addicted?
When you have a loved one or someone you care about that is addicted, it’s often frustrating and confusing to figure out why. What caused the addiction? You worry that it may be something that you did or didn’t do. You rack your brain trying to think of what happened recently that may have contributed to the addiction. You agonize over whether you could have seen the clues ahead of time so that you could do something to prevent it.
So, why does someone become addicted? Here are some answers.
No One Chooses to Be Addicted
Addiction is not a choice a person makes, just as no one chooses to have cancer or heart disease. And addiction is a chronic disease, with symptoms, onset, course of progress, and outcome. One thing you don’t want to do is ascribe blame to the person who is addicted, since he or she did not make the choice to become addicted.
It is true, however, that the decision to take drugs in the first place is generally a voluntary decision. But drug use changes the structure and functioning of the brain so that, over time, repeated drug use can affect a person’s self control and ability to make the right decision. At the same time, the brain, which is now changed, also sends strong impulses to seek and take drugs.
Many people mistakenly believe that if a person wants to quit drugs, they should just be able to do so. It’s not that simple. If it were, no one would remain addicted. Quitting drug abuse is much more than just a matter of willpower.
Risk Factors for Addiction
There is also no single factor that explains why one person becomes addicted to drugs, alcohol, or compulsive behaviors such as gambling, sex, work, or shopping – and another doesn’t. There are, however, several risk factors which play a part in addiction.
• Genetics and Biology
Scientists have discovered that the genes people are born with, along with environmental influences, account for about half of their vulnerability to addiction. In addition, gender, ethnicity, and presence of other mental disorders and/or physical conditions may influence risk for drug abuse and addiction.
Environmental influences that may increase the risk for addiction include family and friends, socioeconomic status, and quality of life, among others. In addition, peer pressure, parental involvement, stress, physical and/or sexual abuse greatly influences the onset and course of addiction and drug abuse in a person’s life.
• Developmental Stages
Environmental and genetic factors interact with a person’s developmental stages in a person’s life to affect in a critical way their vulnerability to addiction. Adolescents are faced with a double whammy. Research shows that the earlier a person starts drinking or using drugs, the more likely they are to become addicted, or to have problems with substance abuse and addictive behavior later in life. And because adolescents’ brains are still developing in areas that govern decision-making, judgment, and self-control, they are especially prone risky behavior. This includes the temptation and pressure to try drugs of abuse.
Addiction is Treatable
Instead of agonizing over why your loved one became addicted, take comfort in knowing that addiction is treatable. With appropriate professional addiction treatment, a full recovery is possible. It does take time, and the affected individual must commit to the process. Following treatment, your loved one will require strong support from family and friends, since early recovery is the time when they are most vulnerable to relapse.