If you want to avoid substance abuse yourself, or if you have concerns for a loved one, understanding drug and alcohol addiction can help. The first step is knowing a little about the brain. Putting it simply, the pleasure center in the brain is re-wired by continued drug or alcohol use, causing some individuals to continually crave and then escalate usage. Understanding that drug and alcohol addiction is a malfunction of the brain underscores the idea that addiction is a disease. But what determines the probability that someone will use drugs or alcohol until the brain is addicted?
Five factors to consider:
Family connection. Studies show that people who have family members with addiction are more likely to become addicted themselves, compared to those without alcoholism or drug addiction in the family. The connection leads many researchers to believe that alcoholism is genetic, though no specific alcoholism gene has been identified.
Poor coping skills. People often use substances to relieve stress, which can result in addiction, especially if users have not developed coping mechanisms that are healthier and more effective.
Age. Some statistics show that individuals who begin drinking or using drugs at a young age are at a higher risk of addiction in later years.
Societal pressures. Peer pressure is considered a risk factor for addiction, especially among young people. But even adults are susceptible to the influence of others. Those frequently surrounded by users of alcohol and drugs are more likely to use themselves.
Risky behavior. Those who engage in risky behavior like reckless driving or overspending are more prone to addictive behavior, according to some research.
Understanding drug and alcohol addiction and the contributing factors can aid in recovery and even prevention. Reading up on the disease, consulting with experts, and watching for risk factors are important ways to deal with the challenges of addiction.