There is not a simple answer to that question, unfortunately. Addiction is a life-long and multifaceted disease that can affect someone at any point in their life. Everyone’s brain is different and will respond differently when an addictive substance is introduced.
Furthermore, over time and continued use, the substance actually changes the brain’s chemistry and the cell structure, particularly in the regions that control learning, decision-making, stress, memory, and judgment and behavior. This is the reason someone with an addiction can’t just “give it up” like someone without. Their brain has actually changed. These changes can happen quickly and at any time, which is why someone can become addicted at any point in their lives, without even realizing it.
Having said that, there are certain factors that appear to be important to whether or not someone develops an addiction.
Factors of Addiction
- Biology Many addictive predispositions, like gender or memory disorders are attributed to genetic components. Additionally, people with underlying psychiatric conditions are at greater risk of becoming addicted. Particularly people who are unaware of having a mental illness may begin using substances to self-medicate and alleviate their symptoms. While the offspring of people who have addiction often develop an addiction themselves, there is no one “addiction gene.”
- Social Environment Often times, addiction may occur within family groups because they all exist within a similar social environment. This factor includes the environment at home, at school or work. It includes one’s family and friends, as well as socio-economic status and general quality of life.
- Human Development Though people can become addicted at any age, younger people who use drugs or alcohol have a higher likelihood of developing an addiction. This is because the vulnerable parts of the brain are still developing, like those that control decision-making, judgment, and self-control.
- Trauma Going through a traumatic experience, like abuse, neglect, or losing a loved one early in life can make one easily susceptible to addiction.
Addiction is a biological chemical reaction that a person cannot control. It is not a moral failing or a lack of desire or effort. Fortunately, addiction is absolutely treatable and can be managed with support and counseling. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, our counselors are available 24 hours a day to help you get treatment. Call 800-737-0933