Addiction is not known for discriminating. It doesn’t choose its host based on any particular factor. However, addiction doesn’t just happen to anybody. Two people can chronically abuse alcohol, for example, and only one of them might become chemically dependent upon alcohol, creating an alcohol use disorder. There are a few circumstances which might make one person more susceptible to developing chemical dependency than others:
- Genetic lineage of addiction and mental illness in the family
- Presence of a mental health disorder, including attention deficit disorder or attention hyperactivity disorder
- Experiences of trauma, including abuse and neglect
- Regular substance abuse
How Does Someone Become Addicted?
How then, if not everyone will become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, does someone become addicted? It starts with sobriety. Likely, you’ll think to yourself, sobriety comes after addiction. Until we begin to abuse drugs and alcohol, we are sober. Something changes along the way which leads us to abusing substances. Those changes can be incremental and gradual including environmental changes, cultural changes, and developmental changes. Whatever the shift is, it inspires the recreational use of mind altering substances. The recreational use of drugs is not something that comes naturally to human beings. Like everything in life, it is a learned behavior. The idea that using mind altering substances is a good idea has to come from somewhere else. It isn’t an original thought.
As time goes by and use increases, there begin to be side effects and consequences. Someone who is prone to developing a chemical dependency will experience side effects physically, mentally, behaviorally, and on a deeper level that many call spiritually. Addiction reaches a climax when there is a physical and mental dependency on the substance of choice. In order to function at any level, mind altering substances are needed- not desired, not wanted, not chosen, needed. The neuroscience model of addiction shows us that the brain becomes reorganized and prioritizes the use of mind altering substances.
Some regard chemical dependency as the point of addiction. Others use a few other points to mark true addiction:
- Cravings for drugs and alcohol
- Obsessive thinking about the substance of choice
- Continued use despite negative consequences of health, wellness, and life relationships
Once someone begins to pass the threshold of chemical dependency, it is difficult for someone to stop using on their own. Indeed, their brain is biochemically convinced that it cannot stop on its own.