Is Addiction a Genetic Problem or a Mental Health Illness?

June 20, 2017 - - 0 Comments Is Addiction a Genetic Problem or a Mental Health Illness?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is still inconclusive.  Read on and learn more about the complex problem of addiction.

Addiction Defined

Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain, symptomized by uncontrollable seeking and obsessive use of drugs, alcohol or some other substance or activity.  What makes addiction extra challenging is its compulsive nature, driving individuals to continue sustaining their bad habits despite knowing its destructive consequences.  Addiction experts explain that this baffling illogical behavior displayed by addicts is attributed to damage, degeneration, and dysfunction of the physical brain, as a result of long-term substance abuse.

Understanding Addiction

While each one of us has a tendency to fall prey to addiction, regardless of age, gender, economic status, ethnicity, as well as genetic or environmental influences, certain risk factors can affect the development and progression of addiction:

  • Gender.  Males are more predisposed to developing substance abuse and addiction than females are.  However, data reveals that in women, alcohol addiction has been found to progress more quickly than in men.
  • Mental Health.  People afflicted with mental health issues (PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder, ADHD or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression, etc.) tend to self-medicate through mind-altering substances.  Statistics show that women tend to suffer more from co-occurring mental health disorder along with alcohol addiction.  Therefore, if a woman in your life has a drinking problem, it’s best to choose an alcohol rehab for women that can address multiple issues through dual diagnosis.
  • Family Support and Guidance.  Studies show that addiction is prevalent people that have dysfunctional family backgrounds.  The lack of moral support, feeling unloved, and having no sense of security otherwise felt with a solid and close relationship with family members result in an increased risk of turning to peers that are of bad influence.
  • Peer Pressure.  Even when you are mentally sound, have a morally supportive family or have no genetic predisposition to abusing drugs or alcohol, you are still susceptible to developing addiction due to pressure from your peers.  If you associate with your “friends” who happen to be addicts, you are in grave danger of ending up an addict yourself.  Unfortunately, peer pressure exists even post-puberty years.  Even adults relent to peer pressure out of fear of appearing socially awkward.  Bad company truly does corrupt good habits.
  • Environment.  Living in a place where substance abuse is rampant or where illegal street drugs are more easily obtained makes you more prone to trying and experimenting since the temptation is just around the corner, so to speak.
  • History of addiction in the family.  Statistics show that if you have a family member or relative with addiction problems, your chances of developing the same disease are greater.

So, Is Addiction a Genetic Problem?

Not always.  Although genetic predisposition gives you a 50% risk of addiction, it plays just a tiny and insignificant role in the bigger picture.  In other words, your genes alone cannot actually determine your future concerning drug or alcohol dependence.  How various external factors interplay in your life makes or breaks your addiction potential.  To paint a clearer picture and to debunk stereotyping myths, many individuals with a family history of addiction live drug-free and relatively normal lives.  On the other hand, there are also people who have no “addiction” gene whatsoever but still end up developing an addiction.

Is Addiction a Mental Health Illness?

Yes, addiction is a mental health disorder according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).  This brain disease causes a person to deeply suffer a disturbed mental and behavioral well-being.  Furthermore, addiction often co-occurs with other mental health issues.  In some cases, these issues trigger addiction.  In others, addiction comes first and other mental problems follow as a result.  Either way, you should go to a rehab ASAP.  For female patients with co-occurring mental health problems, an exclusive alcohol rehab for women is your best option.

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