Addiction. How many times have you heard that word today? It has become a common, household term, primarily related to drug and alcohol use and more often than not, mistakenly considered a moral failure. However, addiction is developed through a convergence of many elements including biology (genetics), environmental factors, and mental health. So, what causes addictive behaviors? Why are substance use disorders so prevalent? Why are so many people seeking addiction treatment in communities all around the nation?
Any activity, substance, or behavior that has become a major life focus to the detriment of other necessary activities, physical and/or mental health and even relationships is considered an addictive behavior. The brain has a natural reward mechanism by which it releases mood enhancing hormones and chemicals to reinforce necessary or enjoyable behaviors. Even eating and exercise activate the brain’s reward mechanism to promote those activities. However, based on genetic, environmental, and mental health factors, even normal activities like eating and exercise can become compulsive and lead to addictive behaviors.
Some prescription drugs and illicit drugs, artificially activate the brain’s reward mechanism in a very efficient manner; flooding the central nervous system with mood and comfort-enhancing chemicals. This leads to feelings of euphoria, or pleasure, and eventually, can produce dependence. Consequently, substance use disorders and drug dependence have become increasingly prevalent.
A person’s genetics cannot be discounted when evaluating their addictive behavior. Those with a family history of addiction have a statistically higher risk of developing similar addictive disorders.
Mental health is another contributing factor. Most patients that suffer from substance dependence or other addictive disorders present with co-occurring mental health complications such as depression, anxiety, or bi-polar disorder. Studies have also shown that ethnicity and sex may contribute to one’s risk.
The debate of nature vs. nurture also plays into a person’s individual risk of developing a substance dependency. Socioeconomic status, quality of life and a person’s interactions with family and friends over time can all add into the calculation of how likely a person is to end up with a dependency disorder. If a person is exposed to drugs, drinking, abuse or trauma early in life, they have a much higher risk for developing a substance use disorder that requires treatment.
Additionally, stress is a significant environmental factor in determining one’s risk level for addiction. The presence of persistent, unmanaged stress may lead to addictive behaviors such as the use of drugs or alcohol to cope.
Recipe for Addiction
When you combine the presence of genetic and environmental factors with the introduction of drugs or alcohol, the development of a substance use disorder is very likely. The availability and over prescribing of medications such as opiates and benzodiazepines has completed the list of factors needed for many people that already have elevated risk to develop an addiction. Pathway Healthcare is here to help people overcome the cycle of addiction and develop healthy, effective ways to manage their symptoms. In Jackson, MS, our doctors and therapists use proven methods of therapy to help patients overcome their addictive behaviors and learn better methods for coping with their stress and mental health. Our substance use disorder facilities treat patients from all walks of life and focus on creating a welcoming environment where patients feel accepted without judgment. If you or your loved one is suffering from drug or alcohol dependence, contact Pathway Healthcare today and find your way to better, healthier living.