Drug and alcohol addictions are medical conditions characterized by the compulsive action of partaking in these substances, despite the severe adverse consequences. People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol choose the positive feelings that they get from these substances over the negative effects on their life and body.

Aside from the involvement of social factors, a biological process is involved to develop and maintain an addiction. This biological process is caused by the repeated exposure to the addictive substance. All addictive substances are reinforcing to the user, meaning that they create a high likelihood that users will want to use them repetitively. Addictive substances are also intrinsically rewarding, which makes the user temporarily feel good.

Here are five of the most important things to know about drug and alcohol addiction:

  1. Addiction Can Be Inherited

While it has always been speculated that propensity for addiction may be a family trait that can be passed along through generations, science has now established this as fact. Genetic susceptibility to addiction is one of the most serious risk factors of a person who develops an addiction.

Additionally, a child may be born addicted to a substance. A fetus may develop a physical dependence to a substance while in utero if the mother is ingesting certain drugs, such as amphetamines, while pregnant. Once born, children may also learn the behaviors that surround addiction from their parents by simple observation, increasing their risk factor of becoming an addict themselves.

Children of people who suffer from addiction are 8 times more likely than children of non-addicted parents to develop an addiction. Several studies have been done on addicts and the first-degree relatives, such as parents, children, and siblings of those people. There is constantly a clear link between the two.

Everyone has a genetic predisposition for addiction due to an evolutionary advantage, meaning the potential is already hardwired into our brains. However, chances can increase greatly with genetic dispositions.

  1. Addictions Become Compulsions

Oftentimes, addictive behavior becomes more and more compulsive. Compulsions are initiated without the drug or alcohol abuser being aware that it is happening. Oftentimes, this can be related to the physical dependence on the substance.

For some people, the compulsion starts because their drug of choice has directly changed the reward centers in their brain. This means that instead of the brain releasing dopamine in a natural, autonomous way, it begins to release it on demand when the substance is used. This will eventually lead to behavior that seeks out more and more dopamine, which drives the user to take more drugs.

  1. Addiction Is Often Linked to Other Psychiatric Problems

Comorbidity refers to when somebody is suffering from two or more diseases at the same time. People who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction are twice as likely to also have mood and anxiety disorders than people who are not addicted to a substance.

However, sometimes it is difficult to determine if the addiction caused the mental health disorder or if the mental health disorder caused the addiction. Drugs often do enhance the symptoms of ongoing illnesses, but people who suffer from mental disorders may turn to drug or alcohol abuse to help cope.

  1. Change Is Long and Difficult

It takes a very long time for addicts to change their behavior. One of the hardest things about the process is replacing their current harmful habits with new habits and lifestyle changes that will prevent a relapse.

Relapse may be viewed as failure by some, but addiction treatment tends to be a lifelong process. A relapse may be a bump in the road to recovery, but it is hard to say that someone is ever fully recovered from an addiction. The most effective way to fight addiction to drugs and alcohol is with the help of a strong support system of professionals and family. People must be understanding of the long road ahead for people who are trying to change their habits to create a healthy lifestyle.

  1. Individualized Treatment Regimens Are the Most Effective

Mass treatment plans for people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol do not often produce good results. The more individualized a treatment plan is, the better it can address the needs of each individual recovering addict. This increases the chances of the treatment being effective. There are many reasons why someone may become addicted to drugs or alcohol, and that specific reason needs to be addressed individually for each person.

Addiction puts a high toll on people and our society through the direct negative effects of drugs, including healthcare costs, long-term health complications, the negative consequences of the function of the brain’s altered neural plasticity, and the loss of productivity by the abuser. Classic signs of addiction include the preoccupation with a substance, impaired control over the substance, and continued use of the substance despite its negative consequences. The habits that are associated with addiction are characterized by instant and a delayed sense of the long-term negative effects.

Paul Biryukov / Shutterstock.com

Paul Biryukov / Shutterstock.com