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Is Addiction in Your Blood?

Experimentation with drugs and alcohol often begins during adolescence. What the typical teenager doesn’t know - what the typical adult doesn’t know, for that matter - is that the disease of addiction may be lurking silently, waiting to rear its ugly head.

It’s a question that has baffled researchers for decades - why do some people’s lives become consumed by drugs and alcohol while others can imbibe, even heavily, without feeling compelled to keep using?

The Causes of Addiction

Genetics is the most common answer, but other factors put people at greater risk for addiction as well, including:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Personality disorders (especially narcissism and borderline personality disorder)
  • Other forms of mental illness
  • Chronic pain
  • Developmental brain disorder (e.g., fewer dopamine receptors in the brain)
  • Frequent exposure to drugs and drug culture
  • Chronic stress
  • Parenting style and upbringing

Interplay Between Mind, Body, and Environment

Mental health issues are often at the root of addiction. Individuals with mental health disorders are at three times the risk of developing addiction as those without co-occurring disorders.

In these cases, experts believe drugs and alcohol are used in an attempt to self-medicate, though this often worsens the condition rather than improving it. Not surprisingly, alcohol and drugs affect the same areas of the brain as mental health disorders.

Even among people with no predisposition to addiction, environmental factors can lead them astray. Animal studies show that a stressful environment, combined with ready access to drugs, can reduce the number of dopamine receptors in the brain, making it difficult to find pleasure in ordinary experiences.

Addiction Knows No Bounds

Non-addicts sometimes judge those misfortunate enough to fall prey to this deadly disease. But the truth is: Whether addiction runs in your blood or the perfect storm of life circumstances hurls you into harm’s way, anyone can develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol. For this reason, addicts do not deserve judgment or blame, but rather compassion and a helping hand from those more genetically and environmentally blessed.

Posted on August 6th, 2011
Posted in Addiction

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