Many people think that addiction begins by use of a gateway drug. This is the notion that addictions are formed by first trying a seemingly innocuous recreational drug, like marijuana, which leads to seeking greater physical highs with harder substances. While that can often be true, what is perhaps a greater reality is that addictive personalities begin to form during the early phases of childhood development, within the emotional dynamic of a family.
Parents should let their children express their emotions properly and allow them to decide on their own. Otherwise, various issues may arise such as addictions to mood-altering substances. Whether children have home deprived of healthy emotions or one deprived of financial well-being, the outcome is often the same. The child will seek a placed to escape from the harsh realities of their existence. They often grow into impulsive adults who are comfortable taking risks. Who have high-pressure jobs whose stress seems to excuse their abuse of substances because they feel that they “deserve” it.
Moreover, an addiction doesn’t start only through early experimentation with drugs or because of family dysfunction. The genes often make a person becomes an addict. Science doesn’t quite yet understand this biological start to addiction. Not every child born to an addict becomes one. Yet, children raised by alcoholic parents have a much greater tendency toward substance abuse. Researchers have not yet quite worked out whether this is due to the example of behavior learned by the child in that environment or the biochemical makeup of a child born to an addict. Certainly, genetics is one factor that can trigger the start to an addiction.
Contributing Factors of Addiction
Beyond these elements of “nature and nurture,” addictions have a tendency to start with peer pressure as teens experiment with drugs and alcohol. Most of the statistics on when addictive behavior starts will cite ages before 19-years-old. Your addictive personality might already determined before you’ve made out of your teens. Some historical and cultural shifts are responsible for that. Situations like bullying have only increased in recent years, with the increased access that social media gives users to each other’s lives. Bullying is just another word for negative peer pressure. When you’re a teen, this kind of influence from friends can push you to try to demonstrate a kind of maturity or coolness which might require the excessive use of drugs or alcohol.
The effects of one’s younger years live on to haunt us. It is the way we are raised that often impacts the lifestyle we have as adults. This is true of addictions, as well. If you come from a family where someone has an addiction, you are likely to imitate that behavior unconsciously. However, it does not need to be anything so transparent in your upbringing as being raised by an alcoholic. Parents should encourage children to develop positive social skills in order to avoid the risk of developing addictive behaviors. Strong social connections are important to avoid the tendency of developing addiction.
This is not an invitation to blame the parents, siblings, or extended family for the start of an addict’s downward spiral, but the most successful recovery programs explore the larger family dynamic if they wish the patient to successfully recover. We need to understand how psychologically conditioned we are. In that way, we can break out of destructive patterns.