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Exploring the Forces Behind Addiction

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Addiction causes an individual to lose control of their actions, which causes them to behave in ways that are destructive toward themselves and their loved ones. The stigma surrounding substance abuse and misuse is partially due to the misconception that addiction is a moral choice, which is simply incorrect. 

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a complex disease impacted by a person’s environment, genetics, social elements, and overall mental health. Effective treatment takes all of these factors into account to help a client address the true nature of their addiction.

Biology of Addiction 

Research has found the changes that occur in the brain are a significant factor in addiction. Your brain is wired to help you survive by rewarding behaviors that keep you healthy and reproducing, such as eating, exercising, and bonding. Due to positive reinforcement, these activities bring you a sense of pleasure on a neurobiological level. In contrast, when the brain or body senses danger, you react by opposing it or pushing yourself away from it. 

Addiction takes these brain circuits over, pushing you further into alcohol or other substance use. These pleasure pathways that are meant to be helpful in survival are then rewired to create cravings and take action to pursue more substance use. Simultaneously, alcohol and substances stimulate fear and anxiety, particularly when not using them. Thus, addiction utilizes your natural fear by pushing you toward substance use to calm distressing symptoms of mental health or physical conditions.  

Finally, addiction changes your brain’s functioning, particularly the planning and decision-making center. The prefrontal cortex is the region of the brain that helps control impulses and critical thinking. In active addiction, this region decreases function and is thought to be why many lose jobs, loved ones, and other major aspects of life.

Risk Factors

Addiction is a disease that impacts many individuals and their families, and each client has their own story. However, several risk factors exist that explain why some are more prone to addiction and addictive behaviors. Below we will explore each and how it impacts addiction.  

#1 Environment

Where you live and grow up—meaning the location and other factors in your direct and surrounding environment—changes your behavior and the choices that you make. Several environmental factors are tied to addiction, including: 

  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Drug experimentation in those around you
  • Availability or access to drugs 
  • Community poverty
  • Drug or alcohol use for coping in the family 
  • Physical and sexual abuse
  • Stress

These influences interact differently for each individual. However, an environment that includes many of these factors increases the risk of addiction.

#2 Genetic

The genes you are born with impact addiction. About half of your risk for addiction lies in genetics. While many with addiction have a family history of addiction or addictive behaviors, genetics are not always clear based on behavior. Other aspects of our biology, such as gender and ethnicity, may also influence addiction. However, more research is needed to better understand these factors. 

#3 Social 

Aspects of your social environment impact your choices. This is particularly true in adolescence. Earlier use of substances is associated with a higher risk of addiction later in life. Genetics and social factors interact, and if you are more prone to addiction and exposure to substance use, you may be more likely to engage in substance use at a young age. Peer pressure or learned habits, such as using substances as a coping mechanism, are highly impactful. 

#4 Mental Health

Addiction and mental health disorders are common dual diagnoses, and simultaneous treatment for both addiction and mental health disorders is required. More than one in four adults with serious mental health disorders are found to also have a substance use issue. While addiction can occur with many different mental health issues, common dual diagnoses include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Personality disorder
  • Bipolar disorder

The occurrence of both mental health conditions and addiction can be complicated, but you can heal from both. Effective treatment takes both issues into account, helping you improve overall mental health while detoxing and learning to live without substances. 

Finding Help for Addiction

Addiction is not a choice. It is a complicated disease that is impacted by many factors. Some of the influences of addiction are not under your control, such as genetics or the environment you are raised in. However, there are many options to address each client’s individual needs in addiction treatment. 

At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we offer multiple services to address the different aspects of addiction. Additionally, detox will help to remove toxic substances from your body in a safe and monitored environment. Multiple therapeutic modalities are available to uncover new coping mechanisms to safely return to your life with the skills you need to stay sober. Dual diagnosis treatment is also available to address other mental health conditions that may be impacting your substance use. 

Addiction is a complex disease that impacts the way your brain functions. It is not a choice to become addicted, and there are many reasons why one person becomes addicted while another does not. Risk factors like genetics, environment, social structure, and mental health all play a role. Once you are utilizing drugs and/or alcohol, the altered brain function impacts your ability to make changes in these patterns. However, there is hope. Detox and addiction treatment helps you decrease physical dependency and learn new coping skills to help you stay in recovery. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we help each client find their unique path to freedom from addiction. Call (714) 492-1119 today to learn more. 

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