Addiction, that persistent and compulsive need for and use of a substance known by the user to be harmful. The addict, the person who is physiologically and mentally dependent on that substance, knowing full well that if he or she cannot get it, the nightmare of withdrawal begins.
With so much not understood about the workings of the human mind, and why people do what they do, is there any way we can determine who is more prone to becoming an addict and falling into the trap of addiction? If so, there something we can do about it?
Theories of Addiction
Theories on addiction and its causes abound. There are biological theories which lean towards genetic factors and metabolic imbalances. There are psychological theories which put forward the ideas of positive and negative reinforcement, an inadequate personality or a proneness to behavior problems. There are sociological theories that use high-brow and confusing labels that don’t seem of much use at all when your loved one relapses yet another time. Whatever the theories are, what matters in the real world is whether or not they are workable, and whether or not they result in a resolution of the ever-increasing problem of substance abuse and addiction.
As the escalating abuse of prescription drugs threatens the youth of this generation, it behooves us to look at how we might spot some early signs of a potential addict, and take preventative measures before that young person descends into the destructive and life-threatening trap of substance abuse.
If we were to understand what truly causes a person to seek out drugs and use them, knowing full well the danger and the risk of becoming an addict, perhaps we could then truly isolate and identify the factors that put one individual at addiction risk, whereas another person would not be. In this writer’s research, there were some factors that made sense and could be considered valid factors that potentially increase a person’s addiction risk.
Environment is the surroundings of the person, including other people, family, friends, his or her pets, school, work, the weather, the culture–all of it. If a child or young person is growing-up in an environment where there are others who abuse drugs or alcohol, who engage in criminal behavior, or who set a bad example overall of how to live one’s life, it can increase the risk of substance abuse and addiction.
When a young person reaches the pre-teen and teen years, the focus of influence shifts away from the family to his or her peers, friends and schoolmates. It is a part of human nature, the wanting to be accepted and the wanting to belong. Perhaps there is no greater burden than aloneness. An adolescent who wouldn’t necessarily be at risk of drug use from early environmental factors could be swayed by the all-important peers who are using and abusing drugs, creating an increased addiction risk.
Lack of Tools to Deal with Life
Academic failure, wherein the individual is not succeeding at the task of learning the vital basic skills which will allow him or her to achieve their dreams and goals, secure the wherewithal needed to survive in the world, and see him or her through a lifetime of learning, is a major factor in increasing the risk of substance abuse and addiction. A lack of the necessary social skills which allow a person to deal with others effectively and are an integral part of making one’s way in life and the work-a-day world at large, are additionally a factor which put a person at risk of addiction.
When we see a child or an adolescent struggling, whether at home, academically or socially, it is our responsibility as a fellow human being to reach out our hand to help. It may make the difference between a life of degradation and suffering cut short by substance abuse, and one of longevity, decency and contribution.