- What have you learned from others’ responses?
- What were the most compelling points from the interaction with your fellow students?
There are many reasons for a person having an addiction. For decades, the medical community and scientists have tried to find a textbook reasoning for addiction; however, although there are many similar patterns for those who have addictions, not every addict shares the same story and/or situation. Not every addict comes from a troubled childhood, and not every addict has been exposed to trauma. Genetics do play an important role in addiction, those who are born from a person who had an addiction, are sometimes more likely to have an addiction and those who are raised in an environment and exposed to addiction, are sometimes more likely to have an addiction.
However, these two scenarios do not mean there will be addiction. Often times, addiction stems from curiosity, peer pressure, boredom, rebellion, just to name a few. When we do something that brings a pleasurable feeling or sensation, the human brain will tell us to do it again, over and over, to continually seek and retrieve that pleasurable feeling. Can an addict mature and grow out of an addiction? Sure, this is possible, but more rare than common. Most times, once a person has reached the point of addiction, it’s extremely hard to stop the addiction, without professional help. Growing out of an addiction is not like growing out of a pair of jeans because they don’t fit anymore. Most times, once the addiction is there, the person can seek help and recover, but there will always be a part of their brain that reminds them to be careful as they have a higher risk of becoming an addict.
Is addiction a disease? Yes, scientifically speaking it is. Once a person has become addicted to a drug or alcohol, their brain starts to function differently than before. The drugs and alcohol will change the chemicals and cells in the brain. Chemical imbalance within the brain is a disease, a disorder. If you’ve ever tried having a serious conversation with someone while their high on meth, you can clearly see they have a serious chemical imbalance due to the effects of the drug on their brain. Their responses are heightened, their anxious, they have a hard time sitting still, they talk fast, and their thought process does not process as it would, if they were not under the influence of a drug; however, addiction can be cured. When a person recovers from an addiction, they must be careful in the future, knowing they are more susceptible to becoming addicted. A recovering alcoholic will always be a recovering alcoholic and they know to avoid certain situations and triggers so that they are not tempted again.
One current situation that relates to my discussion, is my oldest brother. He’s 53, an alcoholic and homeless. He chose this lifestyle at age 17. He is adopted but we were raised in such a loving home, with such loving and supportive parents; however, we did discover years later, his biological father was a raging alcoholic, genetics played a role in his situation. He can be cured, I took him into my home for nearly a year and he was clean; however, when he went back to a shelter, he got kicked out for fighting and returned to the streets and began drinking heavily and back to his old ways of panhandling and sleeping under the via duct. After two years of trying to take him to various community rehabilitation centers, faith-based programs and other half-way houses, he made it clear he did not want that kind of help. He prefers living on the streets where he can do what he wants and not have any rules to follow. His alcoholism is a disease. He has a choice to recover and be clean but at this point, it will take an inpatient facility setting to do this and if he rejects all offers for this, then there is nothing more we can do. He has been this way for so long, we have accepted that it is what it is.
His addiction is based on genetics as he was not raised with alcohol or any other addictive behaviors and he had a wonderful childhood; this was in his genetics to be like this and although he was warned to stay away from addictive substances, he refused and did them anyway. He has a history of drug use and has been in and out of the jail and prison systems. Since he is 53, he is set in his ways and the longer they are addicted, the harder it is to cure them.
I never saw any evidence of drunkenness or substance abuse at my home as I was growing up, we belonged to an insulated religious group which
mainly stayed to themselves, but my paternal aunt smoked cigarettes, and my maternal grandfather and two uncles drank to excess on occasion. I never really
paid that much attention to alcohol while I was growing up, other than one time when my extended family was at my granddaddy’s farm in Cave Spring and my
one uncle who had been a soldier in Korea threatened my mother while he was drunk. My oldest brother and an older cousin took care of that, but that was the
only time I had been faced with seeing another person inebriated.
According to the information sheet “Drug Abuse and Addiction” from the National Institute on Drug Abuse from the National Institutes of Health, genes
account for about 50 percent of a person’s risk of becoming addicted (Drug Abuse and Addiction, 2010). This paper also states that environmental factors
influence the effect of these genes. I picture it somewhat like this – say a person has diabetes and are not insulin dependent, but manages their condition with
diet and exercise. Imagine, if you will, the person for some reason decides they no longer believe that their disease can be managed with diet and exercise, but
that they want to eat cakes and cookies and just take insulin to manage their situation. Naturally, this is not typically the case and sometimes the body’s
physiological makeup becomes unmanageable via the “normal” management regimen. However, my father was one who refused to follow the prescribed eating
plan and would fill up on bread, cake, pasta and other carb heavy foods and had to start taking insulin as a result of his “denial” of responsibility for his own
health. I saw that while growing up and learned the same carb heavy eating patterns and as a consequence I now weigh 200 pounds, which is obese. I am now
taking responsibility for my own health, walking and building up strength in my knee, and hopefully soon will be able to renew my 3 mile walks in the
mornings, which help regulate my mental health and physical health via natural vitamin d (sunlight) and regular exercise and the benefits thereof. I believe that
a person can be “wired” in such a way as to be more susceptible becoming addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. I also believe thataddictive behaviors can be a
result of environment and can be learned (M. Heim, 2018).
I believe that addiction could be a learned behavior if you see your parents doing it and you are always around it then you do have a higher chance for addiction. Now with that being said I think there are exceptions to this many people see how the drug affects family and don’t want to follow down that road. I am a prime example I grew up with my mom using and was around it all the time yet I have never had the need to use drugs. My sister on the other hand was around it and she followed right down the same path. She has lost her children due to this addiction and now is in drug court her and my mom. What they learned in rehab is that addiction is a disease that they will always have but can manage it. They tell me all the time that they will always be an addict. I don’t believe that this is true once you are in recovery and have stopped using then I believe that you are not an addict anymore.
An article written by Maia Szalavitz about Addiction being a learning behavior, she states that if, “You can be addicted to activities like sex, gambling, and internet which do not directly chemically alter the brain how can they be addictive, if addiction is caused by drug related brain changes” (2014). With this being said I feel that addiction is a learning behavior more than a disease. I think if you see people using drugs all your life then you are more likely to use them. That doesn’t mean everyone but the vast majority of individuals will have a higher chance.
I think that with everything that factors in on addiction the theories that are out there can different reason that someone suffers from addiction. There are those people that have been around drugs all their lives and just have no desire to use. Then you have those individuals that grew up with parents that didn’t use anything yet the child grew up and began to use. In my opinion there can be many reasons to addiction and way never really understand the mind of someone who suffers from addiction.
Replies to my post:
All I have to say is, Wow! Thank you for bringing this author and these studies to my attention. I have always felt, being raised in a religion where the norm is ‘follow the way we tell you implicitly or you will be kicked out’, that when people are straying from the way they have been taught, that is the time they need to be shown love. I dis-associated myself with this religion when I was 35. My family has not associated with me since that time. However, I have been given a new family in Christ. I can see where bonding or lack thereof can be an impetus in displaying addictive behaviors. My story however, has been somewhat the opposite. When I was drinking and drugging, I was okay to associate with my family, however, now that I am clean and sober for 20 years, they don’t view me as an acceptable companion. Oh well, their loss. The referenced articles have opened a new outlook on addiction for me. Thank you for that! All the best, Donna J. Maxwell
Krystal- Thank you for your post!
This is a very interesting take on addiction. I disagree with it whole heartedly but found it interesting all the same. What do you say when someone has a good environment but becomes addicted? What are the causes of a relapse once someone has established people about them? In my experience people generally had good environments but the addiction caused them to lose things and people which established their aloneness. I do agree that everyone just wants to connect but the idea that lack of connections equal addictions does not equate for me. I think that it is a disease that centers in the brain.
This made me think quite a bit. I frequently tell folks I work with that much of the work of recovery from addiction involves establishing and maintaining healthy relationships, which is analogous to the bonding that you discussed here.
I am curious about the opiate angle, however, as long term use of opiates results in the development of tolerance. It also results in the individual going through some very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms as the level of the drug in the blood stream drops. Some people argue that addiction is largely perpetuated by the desire to avoid withdrawal symptoms. What are your thoughts on this?