Currently, there is no single method to predict who will develop a substance abuse habit. However, taking a step back can help us understand the nature of addiction and a person’s vulnerability to substance misuse. Across all social clusters, demographics, and backgrounds, addiction is a multi-faceted illness with no single social or economic group risk-averse to addictive agents.
Thinking about risk factors rather than specific lead causes of substance abuse may be more helpful than citing a lack of education or poverty, for example. Not only does this unfairly stigmatize groups, but it completely ignores and fails to develop an appropriate treatment for professional members of the community coping with workaholism and self-medicating due to stress. It is less harmful and stigmatizing to look at addiction risk through the following lenses:
One of the risks for addiction is our biology—or more specifically—our genetic makeup. Scientists believe hereditary factors contribute to the risk of developing a substance use disorder. For example, a variant in the genetic makeup of brain receptors responsible for producing the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine may make us more vulnerable to consciously or unconsciously seeking substitute ways of creating or increasing this chemical. This may be particularly relevant when suffering from mood disorders such as depression.
Another factor may be the influence of our hormonal response to how we handle or perceive stress. In plain terms, some people just seem to handle high levels of stress better than others. The growing field of positive psychology looks at how some people handle adverse life events and stress without episodes of depression or self-medication.
Our Emotional Health
It is well documented that exposure to substances during childhood places children at risk of developing substance abuse later in life. This includes infants who are born with substances—containing alcohol, opiates, and even nicotine—in their blood. Exposure to addictive substances during the fetus’s developmental stage places them at risk of developing a dependency on the substance they accessed prior to birth.
Trauma, either in childhood or adulthood, leaves us vulnerable to stress, depression, and suppressed memories. When our bodies are stressed for prolonged periods, this affects our immunity; it also challenges our ability to cope with daily living. Chemical changes in our body’s response to stress may make us seek induced dopamine responses through self-medication via prescription opiates and alcohol.
Environmental and Family Variables
Crossing into environmental factors, another potential reason for the cause of addiction is the physical exposure to the substances themselves. A child may witness their parent crushing an opiate pill for a faster effect or notice that their parent is dependent on prescription medication. What children notice at home, they copy, as they mature and develop behaviors and habits.
Additionally, children whose needs are not met due to negative parenting behaviors are more likely to experience increased levels of insecurity and mistrust into adulthood generated by the belief their needs do not matter. Thought patterns such as these can lead to anxiety and depression with self-medicating as a result.
Environment and Peer Pressure
As deeply social creatures, we are strongly influenced by our peers. We all want to belong, sensing safety in numbers from a deeply primal instinct. Being acknowledged as part of a group at school promotes a sense of acceptance and even status. We might be viewed as smarter, funnier, more popular, more attractive, even tougher just by the people we associate with. At school, typically a loner is perceived as weak. They unfortunately often attract a fair share of bullies.
In terms of involvement, where family dynamics are chaotic or weak, children will seek alternative families, often in the form of gangs. Typically, these gangs form part of a more extensive network of older members who are using and dealing drugs. However, they can offer a sense of belonging and acceptance individuals don’t find at home.
Often in these instances, younger children, keen to earn recognition and status among their peers, are exploited by the older members they look up to. They continue learning, adapting, and establishing status among their peers by performing certain tasks and assigned duties.
Examining environmental, psychological, and physiological factors allows us to scan our lives, family history, and emotional health for an honest appraisal of our behaviors, impulses, and habits related to addiction.
No single method can predict who will develop a substance abuse habit. Taking a step back helps us understand the nature of addiction, as well as our vulnerability. Looking at addiction risk through the lens of our environments, families, and other circumstances can be less harmful and stigmatizing, creating a less judgmental approach to determining the causes of addiction. Surrounded by the sublime landscape of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, the Detox Center of Colorado offers a solution-based transitional residence program aimed at accountability and recovery. Against a backdrop of clean, mountain air, your substance abuse or mental health recovery is supported by a range of treatment and aftercare options developed with your needs in mind. Call the Detox Center of Colorado at (303) 952-5035 today.