What makes one person addicted and another person not addicted? Some people believe the difference between someone who doesn’t get addicted to substances and someone who does is an “addiction gene”. However, this could not be further from the truth.
Genetic predispositions to certain traits can lead to the likeliness of addiction; however, numerous studies show there is no specific gene that determines whether someone is likely to become an addict.
Conditions that include biological, psychological and social factors play more of a role than simply genetics. So if it is not specifically one gene, then why are some people prone to addiction more than others?
Trauma is a negative overwhelming experience. According to the American Psychological Association, more than two-thirds of children experience trauma by age 16. In the United States, an estimated 7.9 million children have unintentional injuries and more than 400,000 children have injuries from violence.
When people experience traumatic events such as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, neglect, community or domestic violence, or serious injuries, it can cause significant distress in a child’s life. Social factors such as poverty, status, race, gender and sex can increase the risk of exposure to trauma.
According to a study by Dr. Gabor Mate on adverse childhood experiences, a male child who has had at least 6 instances of traumatic events will have a 4,600 percent greater risk of substance abuse than a male child who has no traumatic experiences.
Trauma often affects children from adolescence well into adulthood, especially for those who have developed any psychological or emotional issues that aren’t addressed. For many with childhood trauma, drug and alcohol addiction tends to be less about recreational use and more of a way to self-medicate, escape pain, and survive.
Physical and Emotional Pain
The key to addiction is suffering. As self-medication becomes a way to escape physical and emotional pain, the physical and psychological stress from drug and/or alcohol abuse worsens.
Survivors of childhood trauma often experience chronic health problems such as a lower immune function, sleep problems, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, headaches, arthritis, and chronic fatigue.
For those with significant past traumas, it is common for them to experience the following:
- Grief and sadness
- Fear of intimacy or new experiences
- Helplessness, powerlessness, and hopelessness
If the above issues aren’t addressed in therapy, self-medication becomes a way to escape physical and emotional pain. The physical and psychological stress from drug and/or alcohol abuse often worsens, which increases the cravings to use more.
Set and Setting
Set or the context of why people abuse drugs and alcohol plays a huge role in addiction. When significant trauma, physical and/or emotional pain is experienced, the emotions from stress can trigger drug and alcohol abuse. What’s more, setting or certain situations and events can bring up memories from the past and trigger drug and alcohol addiction.
The environment in which people are raised also plays a significant role in development of the brain. It’s easy for children who are exposed to drug and alcohol abuse to grow up thinking that’s the normal way to cope with problems. If addiction runs in families and communities, there is a greater risk of addiction than someone who has not been raised in that environment.
Loss of Connection
Loss of connection and community is also a huge factor. Often, the disconnection and isolation that a person feels within them or with others plays a significant role in why they begin to abuse drugs and alcohol in the first place. Addiction becomes a replacement for a loss of love and connection. Loved ones, activities and passions that were once enjoyed become second to addiction and it takes over one’s life. This is why underlying psychological and emotional issues must be addressed throughout the recovery process.
No One is Immune to Addiction
Yes, some people are prone to addiction more than others, but none of us are immune to addiction. We all go through difficulties in life. When people have a chance to process their own trauma in therapy, their well-being increases and their relationships improve.
The recovery process is about reconnecting with oneself and developing healthy, loving, intimate relationships with one’s family members, friends, loved ones and community. When a person realizes that they are not alone or as isolated as they feel, it creates a feeling of loving connection with oneself and the chains of addiction slowly break away.
If your loved one is struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, long-term recovery is possible. Find help today by calling us or chat now. Our admissions counselors are glad to answer any questions you may have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.