When dealing with a loved one’s addiction illness, this question is inevitable: why did my loved one become addicted, when I didn’t? What made them become an addict, when their coworkers, spouse, or other family members haven’t succumbed to the same disease? The answer is complex and multi-layered, as a variety of factors can come into play throughout someone’s life. These factors include genetics, upbringing, age of introduction to their addiction, social pressure, and overall mental state. There are millions of adults affected by the disease of addiction and each person’s situation is different. The first of these factors, genetics, is the one that is under the least control, wildly unpredictable, and hard to pin down, especially because it usually overlaps with the issue of upbringing; the people from whom you get your genetics usually raise you. The son of an alcoholic may never touch a drop of liquor in his life, while the same alcoholic’s daughter may suffer the same illness as her father. This could stem from a genetic predisposition or the impact of their experiences in that environment (the son rebels against alcoholism, while the daughter incorporates it into her own life). More than likely, it’s both. Addiction is a disease that can skip generations, or appear suddenly in a family that has never experienced it before. With the constant improvement of medical technology, we can now identify factors that can predispose someone to addiction, and with that knowledge some people are able to prevent the disease by staying out of the type of situations where it might be “caught.” This is not foolproof, though, and many people become addicted without ever identifying or even presenting such factors. What readers can take away from this information is that addiction can happen to anyone, regardless of their state and situation in life and regardless of their family history or their childhood upbringing. Identifying and removing the factors that may have contributed to addiction through substance abuse treatment can help break a victim of the habits that define their disease. However, to focus on these factors in order to assign “blame” can be counter-productive, adding unnecessary tension and stress to an already difficult situation. Another way to learn about the causes of addiction is to study the brain. If you’re interested in this topic, please sign up for our sponsored luncheon, featuring John Femino, MD, FASAM presenting his talk, “The Neurobiology of Addiction.” You will have two opportunities to participate: February 21 in Irving, Texas and March 23 in Spring, Texas. The luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m. for both dates.
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