When someone becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, the reaction of family and friends is often to question why the person was so unhappy that they turned to substance abuse to treat their emotions.
While there are certainly times when that is the case, addiction is a far more complex situation than that. If we fail to take into account the other factors that can lead to addiction, we may miss some very obvious signs–and with them, the chance to intervene before it’s too late.
Also important is the ability to identify causal factors so that after treatment, the person is less likely to relapse. We often understand the physical impact of side effects of crystal meth without recognizing psychological triggers as an equally important element of the process.
So before someone you love has been impacted by addiction, get familiar with some of the lesser-known causes of addiction.
As science continues to advance, we see more and more evidence that most of who we are and what we do is powered by DNA.
Just as we have found that genetics can predispose someone to breast cancer, addiction can also be rooted in our chromosomes. Of course, it isn’t genetic when we choose to light the first cigarette or order the first drink, but the fact is that there is a tendency among certain people to latch on more quickly to addiction behaviors.
This is independent of the chemical dependency that the substance itself causes. This is a documented psychological likelihood to become addicted and a hurdle to overcoming that dependency. So if someone you love grew up in a family of addicts or alcoholics, that person bears watching.
This is far deeper than simple peer pressure, although that’s part of the issue. There are issues in many situations whereby the addict has had a distorted view of part of the process, whether it’s the severity of their abuse (“I don’t use as much as that guy and he’s okay”) or the simple acceptance of it to begin with (“Everybody goes for a few drinks after work”).
Often this is geographic. Locations with a history of substance abuse problems can lack sufficient resources or a social environment to prevent and treat addiction. Should the wrong person end up in the wrong place with the wrong triggers, addiction can quickly result.
Family is a factor as well. Acceptance of casual use and abuse can color someone’s perceptions of what level is “safe”, permitting them to toe the line too closely and end up with a problem.
Many people mistakenly assume that the addict has reached dependency by a deliberate choice to partake of dangerous substances in unsafe quantities. This is not often the case.
The rampant spread of prescription drug abuse and addiction illustrates this point perfectly. Many of these addicts were healthy, happy people who encountered a medical mishap that changed the course of their lives. It may have been as simple as kidney stones or a back injury, but whatever it was, the person ended up with a legitimate prescription for powerful narcotics and became addicted simply by following doctor’s orders.
During the treatment or recovery of any medical issue, family and friends should help guard the patient from reckless continuation of medications. Everyone should understand that painkillers are to be taken as needed, not according to just the clock. They need to understand that the prescribed interval is the minimum length of time between doses, not the exact time required for proper dosing. The longer the patient can go without doses, the better their chance of avoiding addiction.
Addiction is a frightening and dangerous thing. For those you care about, the best thing you can do is to understand as many factors as possible that can lead people to addiction. The more you know, the better you’ll be at helping someone avoid a potentially deadly misstep.