The Genetic Link to Addiction
Is it true that there is a genetic link to addiction? Yes. Is it true that there is an addiction gene? No.
The bottom line is that people who have a genetic link to addiction are about 50 percent more likely to become addicted themselves. And although that statistic is frightening, it does not sentence a person to a lifetime of substance abuse. Millions of people who have parents addicted to alcohol and/or drugs live happy, healthy and sober lifestyles. That means other factors, such as environmental influence and personal experience, play critical roles in the development of dependency and addiction, according to addiction scientist Adi Jaffe. Conversely, this also means many people may downplay their addictive behaviors because no genetic link exists.
The Real Gateway Drugs
For years, drug abuse experts pointed to marijuana as the gateway to harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin. And although marijuana abuse is a serious health threat that cannot be ignored, prescription painkillers are the fastest growing addiction threat, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. It’s easy for teenagers to secure drugs such as Vicodin (hidden in Dad’s medicine cabinet for back pain) or Adderall (sitting alongside the breakfast dishes for little Johnny’s ADHD) — and because they’re doctor-sanctioned, the notion that they are safe to abuse pervades the public consciousness. Other commonly-abused substances include household chemicals such as glue and solvents — the abuse of which peaks at age 13. Unfortunately, the earlier abuse starts, the more likely addiction becomes, meaning that parents must remain vigilant even when there are no other drugs in the home.
Once an Addict, Always an Addict
Jaffe notes that addiction is a “spectrum disorder,” much like the mental health disorders depression and anxiety. Just because a person becomes addicted to a substance or substances does not mean that this person must be addicted for life. For many chronic abusers of alcohol and drugs who receive treatment, living a sober and satisfying lifestyle is possible. Does it mean that people who once suffered from a substance abuse problem must remain vigilant? Yes. But there is hope, and a lifestyle currently defined by addiction does not have to stay that way.
This Is Your Brain on Drugs
Although it is true that abusing alcohol and certain drugs can change the way the brain produces chemicals that affect emotions, it is not true that addiction causes permanent brain damage. Nevertheless, it is true that people who are recovering from addiction suffer from severe physical and emotional symptoms. In fact, the withdrawal symptoms that many addicted people associate with early sobriety — such as severe depression, nausea and vomiting, anxiety and hallucinations — are the result of the brain beginning to heal itself from chronic abuse. Are these symptoms unpleasant? Yes. Do they sometimes last for months, without help? Yes. Are they permanent manifestations of addiction? No.
Although many people believe that a person who is addicted to alcohol or drugs has to keep spiraling downward before sobriety becomes possible, that is not only incorrect, but it is dangerous. The earlier a person gets help, the easier it will be for that person to recover — not only physically, but emotionally, financially, socially and professionally. Think of addiction recovery as climbing out of a deep ravine: the deeper you are, the farther the climb out is. That is why early and frequent intervention on the part of friends and family can make a tremendous difference in the life of the person addicted to alcohol or drugs.
How 12 Keys Can Help
At 12 Keys Rehab, we help people separate the facts from the myths of addiction every day. Our holistic rehabilitation program provides medically managed detox and holistic care to a small community of recovering family members in a supportive, compassionate environment. Our staff is comprised of recovered addicts who know exactly what you’re going through — and they are ready to demonstrate that building a sober, successful lifestyle is not only possible, it’s enjoyable.
You don’t have to let addiction define your lifestyle. Call 12 Keys Rehab now, learn more about the groundbreaking therapies and treatments we provide, and find your path to freedom, starting today.