Drug and alcohol addiction is not a choice, but a chronic disease. This is characterised by someone who cannot control their substance use and will continue to take drugs or drink alcohol even if they do not want to, or if it causes harmful consequences.
The initial decision to try drugs is voluntary for most people – but with repeated use, it can change a person’s brain chemistry. They will be no longer able to resist urges or show any form of self-control. This can be very persistent, which is why most users or alcoholics eventually ‘relapse’ and return to the drug.
No one can predict if someone will become addicted to a substance. However, there are certain factors which increase the likelihood that someone may develop an addiction and require drug or alcohol rehab to help them.
The factors which make the chance of addiction higher include the following:
A person’s genetic make-up can be a reason why they have an addictive personality. This can account for as much as 50% of the risk. A person’s gender, ethnicity, and mental health disorders can influence the chance of them developing an addiction.
The environment a person is subject to includes many different factors which can influence their likelihood of addiction. This includes the people they are surrounded by, their economic situation, and generally the quality of life they are experiencing.
Peer pressure, sexual abuse, physical abuse, exposure to substances, stress levels, and their experiences with their parents/guardians all have a huge impact on their life.
The two previously mentioned factors also interact with a person’s important stages of development – and this affects whether they have more addictive traits too.
Although drugs can lead someone to addiction at any time in their life, research shows that the earlier someone is exposed to drugs, the more likely that they will suffer from dependency/addiction with drugs.
This issue is problematic for teenagers in particular as areas in their brain that look after their decision-making skills, their judgement, and their self-control are all still developing. – so they will be more likely to pick up risky behaviours and habits.
No single thing can tell if someone will become addicted – these factors only increase the chance. The more factors, the more the chance of addiction. However, drug and alcohol addiction can be treated and managed. It can also be prevented, with teachers and healthcare workers playing vital roles in educating children and young adults to make safe decisions.