Understanding where addiction comes from helps provide perspective if you're concerned about a loved one who suffers from addiction.
It expands your paradigm and casts new light on why your loved one might be battling addiction. Perhaps most importantly, understanding causes of addiction can help create empathy for your addicted loved one, which goes far in facilitating recovery.
Unfortunately, most people don't understand how or why someone might become an addict. It's clearly not something most people would choose for themselves. In previous centuries, some people assumed that addicts simply had poor willpower and loose morals.
Fortunately, we now know that addiction is a complicated disease that can be understood and treated. The first step in beginning to empathize with an addict is to understand some of the causes of addiction.
Three Core Factors That Determine Addiction
While there dozens of different variables that come into play to create an addiction, most of them can be separated into one of three categories. Each category will play some type of role in the formation of an addiction:
Some people are born with a genetic predisposition to addiction. Their limbic system may be prone to reward drug usage with more dopamine, or their physiology might be more likely to develop a dependence on foreign substances. A mental illness may also be present that creates a co-occurring case of addiction and the mental illness.
Friends, family, socioeconomic status and overall lifestyle all play a role in the development of addiction. Peer pressure, stress, poor parenting and anything else physically around the addict can play a role in the occurrence of drug use as well as causing an escalation to addiction.
Both biological and environmental factors impact the overall development of a person. When it comes to addiction, consistently negative environmental factors combined with a genetic predisposition can be a recipe for addiction. Consistently taking drugs will impair judgment, decision making and trigger the reward system, all of which will perpetuate drug usage.
The Importance of Societal and Social Influence
As indicated by the above three primary categories of addiction factors, social influence makes a huge difference in environmental and developmental factors. Additionally, a psychological predisposition to drug abuse can be brought to light through social situations.
Many psychologists believe that negative behaviors brought about by social interactions can trigger a predisposition to addiction. This is done largely by forming a positive association with the environment in which drug was used and the people it was used with.
Someone may have a strong predisposition to an addiction but never end up in social situations in which they are exposed to a harmful substance. They may go their entire life without even realizing that they are prone to addiction.
Conversely, someone with a much weaker predisposition to addiction can still become an addict by being placed in situations that form positive associations between people, places and harmful substances.
What Does the Social Influence Mean for Treatment?
Since social interactions are vital to forming addiction, different social interactions are vital for ending addiction. This is largely why interventions are so common in beginning the path to sobriety. Beyond interventions, encouraging the recovering addict to end all social ties to friends, family members and even places that were associated with addiction is vital.
Replacing those social influences with new ones based on positive interactions and shared activities will help an addict remain in recovery. While there will certainly be other elements involved in treatment, a strong and positive social infrastructure is perhaps the best treatment for lasting sobriety.
- Understanding Drug Abuse and Addiction, National Institute of Drug Abuse, November 2012,https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction
- A. Tom Horvath and associates, Phsychological Causes of Addiction, AMHC, http://www.amhc.org/1408-addictions/article/48345-psychological-causes-of-addiction