Substance use, such as drinking or using drugs, varies from person to person on the severity of the addiction and symptoms experienced. One of the most significant risks of addiction is dependency, which is a commonality that many people share when they are experiencing addiction. No one path leads to addiction, but many risk factors could lead to it. Addiction can occur as a product of one’s environment, genetics, or drug of choice. Addiction does not discriminate, so why are some people affected by addiction more severely than others, while some never experience addiction at all?
The Role of Genetics
Addiction can be formed from a mix of factors, with one being heritability. Heritability is the tendency for something to run in the family genes, passing from one generation down to the next. Proteins are created through the body from gene sequences. These proteins perform most of one’s body functioning. Research from The National Institute on Drug Abuse finds that certain, specific gene sequences can create proteins in the body more vulnerable to addiction. Natural variations in gene sequencing can lead to a person being more susceptible to becoming addicted to something.
While addiction can travel through DNA, individuals may also acquire addictive tendencies as a response to stress. Stress can be induced through one’s environment and alter one’s gene expression, otherwise called epigenetics. Epigenetic changes do not alter DNA itself but add to existing material, directly altering one’s gene expression. When a stressful situation occurs, stress chemicals alter gene expression and affect the brains’ reward circuit. The interaction of stress hormones and the reward circuit can lead to the development of addiction.
How Environment Plays a Part
Environmental risk factors can play a prominent role in why someone becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol. These risk factors include, but are not limited to:
- Learned drug use behavior from peers
- Intense stress or unresolved trauma
- Inadequate or uninvolved parenting
- Lack of sense of belonging
- Cultural or societal acceptance
Young children inside the home are constantly mirroring behavior from family and peers. If siblings or parents regularly use drugs inside the home, this behavior is more likely to be learned and mirrored as children are developing. While drinking or drug use can be a form of coping with intense stress, anxiety, or trauma, these factors can also lead to the vulnerability of becoming addicted to a substance. Uninvolved parenting can force a child to grow up quicker and feel as if they make decisions independently, leading to drinking or drug use and eventually addiction.
Many people may not recognize addiction as a response to needing to feel accepted, although it may be one of the most critical factors when addressing addiction. Humans crave a natural sense of belonging. Whether cultural or social acceptance, acceptance is a feeling that everyone wants to experience in their environment. Typically, experimentation or peer pressure from friends can occur through a need to feel accepted by them. The majority of popular movies and TV shows portray drug use positively, which can encourage experimentation and use indirectly.
Addiction is rarely considered when someone is in an experimentation phase. However, the reality is that any drinking or drug use is an environmental risk for possible addiction in the future. In a similar perspective, when individuals lack a sense of belonging, they may temporarily turn to a coping mechanism such as drinking or using drugs to alleviate feelings of loneliness. Bringing awareness to some of these potential risks can help people understand how their addiction may have occurred and what experiences can identify as a risk in the future.
Drug of Choice
Another factor contributing to someone becoming addicted to a drug would be the drug of choice, including length of use, access to use, and the substance in question. First, some drugs are more addictive than others. Depending on the consistency of use and the dosage of a drug, people may become more severely addicted to a substance. Access to use is another significant factor, as someone that has greater access to a substance may become a regular user of that substance. These factors do not have a direct path to addiction, but they are important risk factors to understand and consider.
Addiction affects everyone differently because every individual is a product of their environment. Everyone’s life journeys are subjective, which leaves a lot of room for questioning but very little room for judgment. Addiction can happen to anyone, although some may be more susceptible and vulnerable to addiction due to a mix of risk factors.
Addiction affects everyone differently because each of us is a product of our own experiences and environments. There is no one path to becoming addicted to drinking or using drugs. A combination of genetics, environmental experiences, and specific drug experiences can serve as potential risk factors for addiction. Someone who has just one risk factor can still experience addiction based on the severity of the risk factor. It is essential to understand that addiction can happen to anyone at any time. West Coast Recovery Centers have the resources you need to understand the nature of addiction. We have many programs that provide individualized treatment options for anyone seeking help wherever that may be in their recovery journey. Through our combination of traditional and non-traditional treatment modalities, you can find healing from addiction, no matter how severe. For more information on the programs West Coast Recovery Centers offers, call us today at (760) 492-6509.