It’s a common question for people who have seen the lives of their loved ones torn asunder with drug use and abuse. The answer to that question can vary dramatically from person to person, but often, the triggers that spark a drug abuse issue come from a combination of factors that are personal, historical and communal in nature. Learning more about these factors could help a family understand what to do, and how to help, when an addiction is impacting someone they love.
People are often defined by their thoughts and behaviors, and while most people have control over these portions of their lives, there are some situations that can cause a lack of control to take hold in no time at all. For example, genes can play a role in the way people respond to some sorts of stimuli, and some genes have been implicated in the development of an addiction issue.
In a study regarding alcohol and nicotine, in the journal Current Drug Abuse Reviews, the authors suggest that certain gene types can cause a person to experience more pleasure when that person is exposed to a substance like alcohol or nicotine.
The substances just have the power to bring more joy, spiking the brain’s pleasure pathway in a manner that might be foreign to people who don’t have these genetic variants. Genes like this could make a drug abuse issue more likely in people who dabble in drugs, as they’ll simply find the drug chemicals to be more rewarding. And that can make an addiction blossom.
Some genetic variants also stand behind the development of mental illnesses, and some conditions tend to go hand in hand with a substance abuse issue. Those who have antisocial personality disorder, for example, may have a specific subset of genes that others don’t have. While researchers haven’t yet nailed down the specific genes associated with this particular mental illness, it’s clear that it has a genetic component, and those who develop this illness tend to have a higher risk of experimenting with drugs and developing subsequent addictions.
In a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, researchers found that the prevalence of alcohol abuse and drug abuse disorders in people with antisocial behavior stood at 30.3 percent. The two conditions seem to be linked, reinforcing one another, meaning that mental illness could have played a part in the development of the drug abuse problem.
The Role of History
While genetics can stand behind some forms of substance abuse and addiction, some people develop difficulties due to the struggles they’ve faced in their lives. Sometimes, those struggles have their roots in the family itself.
Addictions can sometimes move from one generation to the next, as parents and other authority figures use and abuse drugs and pass those behaviors on to their children. When these children face a struggle in their lives, they might remember how their parents dealt with the trigger, and they might emulate the same drinking and drugging habits they saw in their elders. For kids like this, an abuse issue can develop in response to:
A romantic breakup
Loss of a job
Fights with family members
Since they didn’t learn good coping skills from their parents, they may be destined to repeat the poor behavior they saw their parents display during their times of stress.
Any chaotic childhood filled with substance abuse or addiction could be hard to live with, but some children are also forced to deal with abuse on a more visceral level. These children might be exposed to sexual predators, and the abuse they suffer could trigger the development of an abuse or addiction issue later in life. In a study of the issue in JAMA Psychiatry, researchers found that living through abuse like this was associated with a higher risk of drug and/or alcohol abuse, when compared to those who aren’t subject to abuse. It’s clear that this isn’t a problem that can be ignored.
Current Lifestyle Plays a Part
While the history of the person who uses and abuses drugs is certainly important, the choices people make on a day-to-day basis can also dictate how the abuse unfolds. For example, some people choose to live with peers who also abuse drugs. They could choose to make their home a safe and sober space, where no substances are in use on a regular basis, but they choose to stick with peers who have similar problems and similar biases. This could allow an abuse issue to escalate, as people who live with abusing peers might always have access to substances of abuse. Easy access might mean easy use, so it’s a key consideration.
In a similar vein, people who abuse drugs might also choose to live in communities in which drug use is common. Studies suggest that communities like this are devastated by the drug use, as it can contribute to all sorts of negative ills, including:
Difficulties with housing
But living in a community like this can also make an addiction more severe. People just have easy access to the drugs they want, and each time they might want to get sober, they might be forced to walk by dealers trying to sell their wares and people who are using drugs. These visual and auditory cues can be hard to ignore, and they can make a relapse all the more likely.
What to Do with the Information
While knowledge is power when it comes to addiction, it can be hard for families to know just what to do with information pertaining to an addiction’s source. Should they change their lives around to remove as many triggers as possible? In some cases, this might be a good idea. Moving to a community in which drug use isn’t rampant and ensuring that the home is a safe and sober place might be two ways in which to reduce the triggers an addicted person might face.
Encouraging the person to make ties with sober friends might also help to stem the rising tide of addiction.
However, many of the causes of addiction can’t be addressed through simple changes a family might choose to make. They can’t reach inside a person’s body and control the chemistry, for example, and they can’t make the past fade in importance. There’s only so much they can do.
Families that attempt to change their ways, without getting the addicted person help, may experience a so-called spontaneous recovery from addiction. But as a study in the journal Addiction points out, these recoveries tend to include moderate abuse of alcohol or drugs. In other words, while families that change might help to taper an addiction for a time, true sobriety and recovery really only comes about through therapy and counseling.
It’s best then to allow the information to infuse the intervention the family holds. The family might acknowledge the issues that could have contributed to the addiction, and they might express sympathy for the challenges the person has faced along the way to developing an addiction, and then they can push the person to accept the help that only a treatment program can provide.
Once the person accepts the help of a treatment program, the family can consider providing their intervention notes to the treatment team. Details about how the addiction developed, how addictions have been handled by the family in the past and what the family wants from therapy can all be used to help the therapist develop a treatment program that can help. Those notes might also be used in the addict’s therapy sessions, providing a jumping-off point for an intense conversation about how the addict might need to change for the better.
It can be intimidating for families to think about sharing this kind of information with a stranger, but an interventionist can help. These professionals are adept at helping families to understand how therapy works, and they can provide useful advice on what kind of details a therapist might need and what sort of data might best be kept private. An interventionist can also help to ensure that the conversation with the addict progresses as smoothly as possible, with no nasty fights or arguments to mar the action.
If you’d like to find an interventionist like this to help your family, please browse our directory. We’ve provided details about the educational background and professional experience of each interventionist that appears in the database, and we can even direct you to the professional’s website, so you can find out more. Just click to get started on your customized search.