Addiction in America is on the rise and while the figures vary based on the drug of choice (for instance, cocaine usage is down, but methamphetamine use is up), the reality remains that drug addiction is a prevalent beast in American society.
Is there a way to protect yourself, or are some people just doomed to be addicts? The answer is complicated.
Addiction is a disease, and like any disease, there are those who are more prone to it. Not everyone with the risk factors becomes an addict, but knowing the signs to watch for can help you safeguard your life against this devastating trend.
Our ability to socialize and form healthy attachments is formed early in childhood. In the absence of these early bonds, the brain seems to react by shaping inappropriate attachment styles.
A person who is insecurely attached during childhood will often have difficulty forming meaningful relationships later on, either becoming so focused on keeping relationships that they become anxious, consumed by fear of rejection, or by avoiding relationships altogether.
Secure social attachment is an outlet for stress and a primary way humans mitigate unpleasant feelings and situations. Individuals with insecure attachment styles can often try to replace those attachments with substances, using drugs or alcohol to help avoid negative emotions or difficult situations.
Family History of Abuse
Look back at your family tree. How many of your relatives are alcoholics or have used and abused drugs? If there are several, yours would not be an unusual story. Addiction experts estimate that some 40 to 60 percent of addiction is based on genetics.
What this means is that those with a family history of drug or alcohol dependency must remain especially vigilant, even going so far as to abstain from all substances entirely.
Mental or Emotional Disorders
In the world of addiction treatment, someone with both a mental disorder, such as anxiety or clinical depression and a substance abuse problem is known as a dual-diagnosis.
It is common for individuals with mental health issues to attempt to self-medicate with alcohol or illicit substances, and roughly a third of those with mental health issues will struggle with substance abuse at one point or another.
It is also important to note that while mental illness can lead to substance abuse, the problem can also work the other way. Substance abuse can alter brain chemistry enough to cause mental health issues of its own.
Stress is a normal and arguably essential part of life. Stress is what drives us to better ourselves and to achieve great things. Unfortunately, chronic stress or, put another way, the inability to properly deal with chronic stress, can lead to substance abuse issues.
While many individuals are perfectly capable of dealing with even the worst of life’s stresses with seeming ease, or at least without turning to barbituates, there are many for whom stress seems to be a major trigger for both new abuse and relapse.
Drugs offer a temporary escape, and a tool to cope with difficult situations, and may become a form of escapism of self-medication.
It’s important to pause for a moment and note that many of these triggers are interwoven. An alcoholic parent may impart the genetic disposition for drug and alcohol abuse, while the stress of living with an alcoholic parent fuels the fires and need for an escape.
In the same way, trauma, and especially that in early childhood, can pave the way for social isolation, mental illness, and substance abuse.
It is vitally important that if you see any of these risk factors in your own life, that you remain vigilant and self-aware, avoiding allowing substance abuse to have a hold over you.
If you find yourself struggling with substance abuse, Prescott House Addiction Treatment Program can help.