Like any other disease, genetics plays a role in whether you’re at risk for addiction. Although there is still a tendency to believe that addiction is one’s inability to make the right choices. That it’s a personal flaw or that someone in unfortunate circumstances might turn to drinking or drug use. However, research shows there is a significant role that genetics plays in whether an individual will later develop addiction.
Of course, if someone doesn’t touch a drink or drug in his or her life, then genetics won’t be a factor. However, if a person had a tendency to drink on occasion and if he or she went through a difficult period in her life as well as having a genetic predisposition to addiction, then the illness of addiction might develop.
In fact, according to research genetics plays a 50% role in whether addiction will develop. The other 50% is having poor coping skills. One study, for example, examined the role of addiction in sets of identical and fraternal pairs of twins. The study found that when one of the identical twins was addicted to alcohol, the other twin had a high probability of developing an addiction. On the other hand, when one non-identical twin was addicted to alcohol, the other twin did not have a propensity of developing an addiction.
Furthermore, research has found that children who are raised in families in which there is an addiction, those children are 8 times more likely to develop an addiction. Part of this finding was the understanding of particular roles that family members play in response to the family member who is suffering from the addiction. One family member might try to be a very good, well-liked child in an attempt to not cause any more harm to the family. Another family member might be a jokester or a comedian in an attempt to divert the family’s attention away from the addiction. And lastly, another family is often an enabler, one who enables the habits of the one who is addicted in the family.
However, it should be noted that virtually anyone is predisposed to addiction. Although genetics plays a significant role, anyone who spends time in environments in which there is plenty of drug use or drinking are vulnerable to addiction. Furthermore, anyone who does not have the right coping mechanisms, particularly during difficult times in life, such as a death of a loved one, might turn to drugs or drinking. This is commonly the way that people get started with substance use – there is an event in their lives that is emotionally too challenging to face. Substance use frequently becomes a way to manage those difficult emotions.
Also, an addiction often develops as a means to stabilize a mental illness that might have lingering for someone for many years. By drinking or using drugs, a person alters their mental and physical state and bypasses the psychological symptoms they might be experiencing. It’s common, for example, that someone with depression, might turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to manage their depression. And it’s common for people to do this despite not knowing that depression is what they are experiencing. However, the low mood and sadness prompts them to drink or get high in order to shift their mood.
Another important factor to remember is that addiction is an illness that rewires the brain. It has an effect on the levels of dopamine – a neurotransmitter that affects levels of pleasure and stimulation. The higher the levels of dopamine in the brain, the more difficult it is to enjoy life without those drugs that producing dopamine in the brain artificially. Along these lines, every time you use, you’re strengthening the neural connection in the brain that sends the message, alcohol use makes things okay. This will encourage more drinking, and the more you chase the effect of alcohol, the greater your chance of eventually developing an addiction.
There are many factors that play a role in developing and strengthening an addiction. It’s clear that genetics plays a significant role – about 50%. However, as mentioned here, there are other factors that can hinder or facilitate the development of an addiction. And having this information can help you make healthy choices in your life.
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