Why is it that some teens and young adults can try alcohol or experiment with drugs, and it somehow does not evolve into a substance addiction? Whereas, with others, they try it once or twice, find themselves not being able to control their compulsion to use more, and spend years struggling with addiction? This is the great paradox that so many have struggled with over the years. Perhaps it’s environmental; that is, if an individual has grown up around one or two parents or adult family members that abused substances, they will abuse substances themselves. Perhaps it’s genetic. Or maybe it’s a bit of both. Nature vs nurture.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), addictions to a certain degree, can be identified with shared environmental and genetic variables. Addictions are complex and common diseases that are often chronic. The origins of addiction, however, can be interpreted through analysis and genetic studies, which helps to remove the stigma associated with substance misuse..
The Realities of Substance Addiction
Addiction alters the brain in such a way that an individual’s normal desires and needs are replaced with preferences associated with seeking drugs, and ultimately, using them. This leads to compulsive behaviors that decreases impulse control, regardless of negative repercussions from continuing with such behavior.
Because the brain consists of many different parts with different functions to perform, when drugs are introduced into an individual’s system, they interrupt the brain’s normal tasks and inevitably alter how well it works.
Some Get Addicted. Some Don’t.
Why do some get addicted and some don’t. As mentioned, there are multiple variables including genetics and environment. And ultimately, no one knows the answer for sure. On the other hand, there are teenagers (and some young adults) that aim to fit in with their peers so much so that they are willing to participate in activities such as binge drinking, underage drinking, and various substance use. They don’t have a genetic predisposition to substance use disorder and the adults in their lives never abused substances—at least not in front of them, if they have at all. These teens drink. They use substances. And one day, they make a decision that doing those activities no longer suits them or they’ve simply outgrown the underlying reason that caused them to engage in such behavior in the first place. And they walk away from substance use unscathed and never having been addicted. And then there are some people who never even try alcohol or drugs at all.
Then there are those who may have never seen addictive behaviors from parents and peers, but there is a history of addiction in their family lineage. They use a handful of times and they are of to the races, some never making it out alive. Genetics clearly play a factor in predicting if someone gets addicted, however, so does the environment and friends that someone lives in.
The uncertainty surrounding substance use can be daunting. And as easy as it is to say, “Don’t try drugs at all and only drink in moderation and when you are of age,” the reality is that people will do whatever they want to do in the end. And many people who’ve tried drugs and didn’t believe they would get addicted, have gotten addicted.
Addiction is an overwhelming problem in our country today. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, please call San Diego Sober Living today. We can help. We have been there.