Nature versus Nurture
The question of who can develop an addiction is an important one. By understanding who might develop an addiction and who is at a higher risk, it is possible to develop prevention programs and improve the outcomes by intervening early. However, the question of who may become addicted to a substance is also associated with a lot of myths and misconceptions. So, can anyone become an addict? Are there risk factors associated with this disorder? Let’s take a look.
If one answered the question in general, then anyone can develop an addiction. A person with no genetic predisposition, for instance, might develop an addiction, as well as someone who has only just started using the substance. People from all walks of life and backgrounds might develop substance abuse problems, especially when one considers not only illicit drugs but drugs like alcohol or nicotine. So, generally speaking, anyone can develop an addiction. However, there are factors that can make addiction more likely.
The first factor is associated with the type of substance the person uses. Illicit drugs, for instance, tend to be significantly more powerful and also have a bigger impact on the brain. A drug like caffeine might generate addiction to some degree but it is much less likely to make the person develop substance abuse problems. Some drugs impact the functioning of the brain in ways that make them highly addictive because they disrupt the normal functions from the first time they are ingested. Some substances are more conductive in relation to addictions than others.
The second factor that may be associated with addiction is a family history of the problem. There seems to be a genetic predisposition towards addiction, as people who have close relatives with the problem are more likely to develop the same issue. This means that people who come from families with a history of substance abuse may need to be more careful in regards to their use of drugs and alcohol. However, this is a factor that is not universal. For example, many people who grew up in families where their parents or other relatives abused alcohol or some drug are so put-off by the idea that they limit or avoid using any form of drug.
Many of the risk factors associated with addiction are linked to the person’s socioeconomic status. Poverty and a lack of education are significant risk factors for addiction. It has been suggested that a lack of opportunities and stimulation might promote drug use as a form of entertainment or create environments where drug use becomes more common, encouraging addiction in those who live in those environments.
Environmental factors can have a significant weight. One important type of environmental influence is abuse and trauma. People who have experienced these issues might be more vulnerable to developing addiction. Having a mental disorder, especially one associated with trauma, can also be a significant risk factor, especially if the mental disorder is not diagnosed or treated. People with a history of trauma or who have a mental disorder may use substances to cope and manage the negative effects. For example, some people with anxiety use alcohol to relax and reduce the fear and worry they feel.
Another type of environmental factor that can contribute to substance abuse problems is peer pressure. While peer pressure has been focused on excessively as a contributing factor, it can still play a significant role. Being in an environment where many peers use alcohol or drugs or encourage this behavior can make the person more likely to use the same drugs to fit in. If the peers are especially significant for the person, for example, in cases where there are strained relationships within the family, then their influence might be more significant as well. For some people, popular media and culture might also play a role, especially if their environment is supportive of using drugs (e.g., promoting marijuana use or drinking as a necessary part of having fun).
There may be other factors that contribute to an individual’s risk of developing an addiction. Their personal history, individual characteristics, biology, and environment all can play a role because substance abuse is a problem that usually has multiple causes. However, ultimately, anyone can develop an addiction. It is important to look out and work with the factors that might increase the risk but addiction might occur among people who are wealthy, who have had a positive family history, and who have other characteristics as well.
If you or a loved one is struggling, Charleston Sober Living can help connect you to the right recovery services and sober home if appropriate! Call us anytime at (843) 427-0077.