You hear it all the time, that it just takes a few drinks – maybe even just one – to change your life, to have an addiction and become an alcoholic. It’s the same with drugs. One day you’re smoking weed and the next thing you know you’re taking your chances with speed. How does addiction happen? And why is it that some people get addicted so fast, while others don’t get addicted to drugs even though they abuse them all the time?
Addiction, like so many things in life, is complicated. It takes its toll on a person both physically and mentally. In a TIME magazine article, Dr. Nora Volkow (Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse) explained, “Some people have a genetic predisposition to addiction, but because it involves these basic brain functions, everyone will become an addict if sufficiently exposed to drugs or alcohol.” This explains why sometimes addiction seems to set in really quickly for some people. If a predisposition to addiction is a part of your genetic code, then you are naturally likely to become addicted. As the article further explains, for someone who is inclined to become addicted, that person isn’t just more likely to develop an addiction to illegal drugs or alcohol. An addiction can be defined as any behavior a person feels compelled to conduct and cannot discontinue without traumatic effects. It’s possible for someone to become addicted to their work, to cleaning, to gambling or eating – anything, really. Any addiction is unhealthy, and is truly a disease, but the danger level is significantly higher when someone is addicted to substance abuse, because it can kill them.
Of course, sometimes the drug is to blame for causing addiction to set in quickly. Different drugs affect people differently, but there are some drugs – like heroin – that are extremely addictive for just about everyone. Breaking the physical addiction that comes along with those drugs makes detox and rehab very challenging for both the doctors and the addict.
Genetics and drug strength aren’t the only reasons why people become addicted to drugs. Studies show that people with psychological disorders or some form of mental illness are more likely to suffer from drug addiction. New studies are showing that people who start abusing drugs at an early age or as a teenager are more likely to trigger an addiction that can last a lifetime.
Finally, perhaps one of the most prevalent reasons why people get addicted to drugs, and why they start abusing drugs in the first place, is due to social acceptance. It’s all about “the company you keep.” If you hang out with people who enjoy smoking pot, drinking beers, or shooting heroin, then you’re more likely to start using drugs or drinking alcohol because of that environment.
Knowing and understanding why addiction happens can help someone understand their own struggle with addiction. What is even better is that by learning about the triggers of addiction, it can increase a person’s awareness of what addiction is and help prevent it altogether.