Chemical Dependency

Chemical Dependency Causes

Drug and alcohol abuse resulting in chemical dependency causes the substance that’s being abused to become the sole focus of an addict’s life. A recent study conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealed that the illegal drug use of people living in the United States has reached its highest level since the early 2000’s. Additionally, approximately 130 million people admit to drinking or experimenting with alcohol.

People have often wondered what makes some more prone to abuse drugs and alcohol than others. The progression of certain circumstances, situations and predispositions push some toward substance abuse, while others work through these same challenges in ways that help them avoid the use of alcohol or drugs. Whether you want to avoid substance abuse and addiction within your family, have concerns for your own drug or alcohol use or fear for a loved one with an addiction, learning more about substance abuse and the factors that lead to it can help. To begin with, it’s helpful to understand exactly what addiction is.

Understanding Addiction and Substance Abuse

There’s a very fine line between substance abuse and dependence upon drugs or alcohol, states Psychology Today. Substance abuse is most certainly problematic because it can cause a person to suffer severe consequences as a result of drinking or using drugs. The difference between substance abuse and dependency is that the consequences experienced are enough to make the substance abuser stop using drugs or alcohol, even if only for a while.

The mindset of someone who abuses drugs or alcohol is that of a person who wants to have fun. But pleasure-seeking behaviors can and often do develop into chemical dependency. When abuse turns into dependency, your body and mind or that of a loved one, feels that drugs or alcohol are needed to feel good. With continued use, you’ll feel compelled to keep taking drugs or drinking alcohol even though they no longer give you pleasure. Once addiction takes hold, continued use of drugs and alcohol is necessary to feeling as if you can function normally, and the pleasure-seeking mindset of reckless substance abuse is all but a distant memory.

The Brain-Altering Effects of Chemical Dependency

The Genetics Science Learning Center at the University of Utah states that the use of drugs causes immediate changes to your brain’s synapses. These substances trick your brain cells into releasing huge amounts of dopamine, resulting in the euphoric, pleasurable feelings often experienced with first use. But the brain is a very adaptive organ and it quickly goes into action, trying to compensate for the presence of so many dopamine receptors. This translates into tolerance, and the next time someone you love drinks or uses drugs a greater amount or frequency will be necessary to achieve the same effect. As your brain’s pleasure center is re-wired by continued drug or alcohol use, casual usage develops into a necessary habit, almost as if it’s a natural reflex in response to the body and brain’s desire for pleasurable feelings.

Learning More About Chemical Dependency Can Make a Difference

Understanding the main contributing factors that lead someone to abuse or become dependent upon drugs or alcohol can help prevent addiction or lead you to seek help for it. Although each individual addict has their own unique circumstances that lead to addiction, most every person that develops a dependency upon drugs or alcohol does so due to one of the five top factors described in this book. Read on to learn more about each factor, how it affects individuals, and what you can do to prevent or overcome addiction.

Factor #1: Drug or Alcohol Addiction Runs in the Family

  • What Makes Someone Vulnerable. The Mayo Clinic states that a family history of alcohol or drug addiction places you or a loved one at a higher risk of developing addiction as well. Genetic predisposition doesn’t guarantee that a person with family history will become addicted to drugs or alcohol and no one single gene has been found responsible for passing on this trait, but scientists do know that the interaction that takes place between multiple genes can place you or someone else in your family at risk for addiction.
  • Other Risks That Increase the Weight of This Factor. Being born into a family with addiction isn’t necessarily enough in and of itself a person toward developing a drug or alcohol addiction. Other risk factors compound the presence of family history, finds the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah. The environment within your home, the way your family interacts and the examples set all contribute toward chemical dependency being passed down from one generation to the other. Addiction is a complex disease and the familial factors contributing toward it affect each person differently.
  • How You are Affected by Addiction in the Family. In addition to the genetic risks, you and others in your family also face social, environmental and behavioral factors that will influence the propensity towards substance abuse and addiction. If you become sick after trying drugs or drinking alcohol, the experience may be enough to cause you to steer clear of further experimentation. Watching a loved one’s life deteriorate from drug or alcohol abuse can also be enough to turn you off. At the same time, another person in your family may not have these reactions at all and, in the absence of unpleasant experiences with drugs or alcohol, will face a greater risk of developing his or her own addiction.
  • Preserving Health and Wellness. The fact that you and other family members are susceptible to chemical dependency doesn’t mean you will necessarily become addicts. It simply means you must exercise caution. Knowing the potential is there is half the battle. As a teen, young adult or parent, it’s important to take measures to avoid potential risk. A focus on the preservation of your health and well-being can help you develop lifestyle habits that allow you to break away from the family history and develop a life that’s healthy mentally and physically.
  • Counteracting the Risk of Addiction. Social support is critical in families with a history of addiction, especially where young children are involved, asserts the United States Department of Health & Human Services. Positive parenting role models can effectively help parents break the cycle of addiction in the family and provide children with good role models to follow. In addition to professional counseling, social support can be provided by other family members, neighbors, members of your church, and community or school organizations. Taking advantage of the social support available to you can help counteract the risks faced by your family.
  • Treatments That Address this Factor. When you or another family member who’s suffering from addiction seek professional treatment, your chemical dependency rehabilitation program will help address the factor of addiction in the family. During individual and family counseling sessions, you’ll uncover what placed you at risk and how potential risk developed into addiction. As you take part in life skills education, you’ll also learn about maintaining your sobriety with or without the support of other family members. During the rehabilitation period, efforts will be made to establish or reestablish trust and other essential characteristics of a healthy family relationship so healing can be experienced within your family.
  • Aftercare That Addresses this Factor. Once a loved one has completed treatment for chemical dependency, the emphasis will be on maintaining sobriety. When other members of the family refuse help and persist with addictive behaviors, it can be difficult to maintain your new sober way of living if you must spend a great deal of time around them. The support of other recovering addicts, your counselor and positive role models will play key roles in helping you avoid relapse. It’s also possible that you will have to distance yourself from certain family members to preserve your own well-being.

Factor #2: Presence of Psychological Problems or Mental Illness

  • What Makes Someone Vulnerable. The presence of psychological problems or mental illness places you or someone you love at greater risk of chemical dependency, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Undiagnosed mental health issues can lead to self-medication with alcohol or drugs, leading to an eventual dual diagnosis. Comorbidity is the term used by professionals to describe the existence of two disorders at a time, such as depression and alcoholism. One condition can lead to the other, but it’s also common for each disorder to add to the complications of the other disorder, as well.
  • Other Risks That Increase the Weight of This Factor. Many other familial, social and environmental factors can tip the scales toward addiction when a loved one suffers from mental illness. A lack of support from family members or stress within your family can compound feelings of depression or anxiety. Poor role models and negative peer pressure also increase your vulnerability. A lack of proper healthcare can further the risk of substance abuse and addiction, as you or a loved one deals with the frustrations and fear of knowing something is wrong without knowing exactly what it is.
  • How You are Affected by Psychological Problems or Mental Illness. There are many factors that can lead a person with underlying psychological problems or previously diagnosed mental illness to abuse drugs or alcohol. Overwhelming stress or trauma in your life or the life of a family member can lead to the use of alcohol or drugs for escape and relief. Some people with mental illness find that substance abuse helps to relieve unpleasant symptoms and side effects caused by the illness; this is a form of self-medication. Your personality or that of someone you love also plays a role in whether or not drugs or alcohol begin to look like a viable solution for relief from mental health issues.
  • Preserving Health and Wellness. The presence of mood, thought or personality disorders can increase the risk of chemical dependency, according to Dr. Roxanne Dreyden-Edwards, a psychiatrist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University. But suffering from depression, schizophrenia or an antisocial personality disorder doesn’t have to lead to addiction. Knowing that a higher risk of addiction is probable means that you must be extra cautious to preserve health, safety and well-being. The steps taken to do so can prevent the temptation to try drugs or alcohol.
  • Counteracting the Risk of Addiction. It’s imperative to seek the advice of a medical professional if depression, anxiety or any other type of mental illness is impacting your life or the life of someone you love. The lack of a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan compounds the problem and increases risk of addiction. See your doctor or accompany a loved one so a proper diagnosis can be made and a course of treatment can be planned. A combination of medication, counseling, behavioral therapy and healthy lifestyle changes can help counteract the additional risks faced by a family member or yourself when suffering from psychological problems or mental illness.
  • Treatments That Address this Factor. When a person you care about enters a rehabilitation program for chemical dependency, part of the intake process will include assessing physical and mental health. Once the medical and counseling staff is aware that you or a loved one suffers from a form of mental illness, a treatment plan can be designed to address the addiction and the mental health issues that compound it or were caused by it. As needed, medication might be prescribed or adjusted and different types of therapy may be employed to make sure the type of treatment provided is effective in helping the person in treatment to overcome addiction while treating other illnesses or disorders.
  • Aftercare That Addresses this Factor. Continued care is vital for someone who’s overcome addiction to drugs or alcohol. It’s imperative that medication, counseling and other forms of therapy prescribed to treat mental illness continue without fail once addiction rehabilitation is over. A great deal of social support can be instrumental in keeping a loved one on track and helping him or her avoid or deal more appropriately with the triggers that previously led to substance abuse.

Factor #3: A Personality Prone to Risky Behaviors

  • What Makes Someone Vulnerable. An individual’s personality can place them at an increased risk of chemical dependency, asserts the National Hospital Organization’s Chief of Psychiatry Mitsuru Kimora. The combination of being a high risk seeker and possessing a lack of concern over potential harm can make someone you love more vulnerable to substance abuse leading to addiction. If you have a family member who tends to engage in other risky behaviors, no matter how harmless they may seem to be, it’s wise to take steps to prevent the progression toward experimentation with drugs or alcohol.
  • Other Risks That Increase the Weight of This Factor. Peer pressure has a definite impact on drug or alcohol abuse, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. An adolescent or teenage child is especially influenced by his or her peers. Adults who possess multiple factors that compound risky behavior, such as mental health issues or family history of addiction, can be influenced to try drugs or alcohol. In essence, it’s not that you or the family member you’re concerned about is always easily swayed. Rather, it’s that the thrill of the risk involved provides encouragement and a reason to participate in activities that can lead to potential harm.
  • How You are Affected by a Tendency Toward Risky Behavior. Thrill seekers share a common trait with people who suffer from chemical dependency. The first time a risk is taken, even the accomplishment of a small one can produce the adrenaline rush and euphoric feeling that’s sought. But eventually, minor risks are no longer satisfactory because you become desensitized and greater risk is necessary to produce the same adrenaline rush. Likewise, with substance abuse, the initial euphoric or pleasant feelings typically require you or another person to use more of the substance and with greater frequency.
  • Preserving Health and Wellness. According to the Harvard Medical School there is a link between risky behavior and the development of the adolescent brain. Parents or other supportive, positive role models play an important role in helping adolescents and teens develop healthy boundaries that prevent dangerous risk-taking behaviors. Although you might express concerns for an adult family member who takes unnecessary risks, a near-miss or close call can sometimes be enough to cause him or her to wake up and step back from such choices. To avoid the dangerous consequences of risky behavior, including chemical dependency, it’s important to gain a greater understanding and concern for potential consequences.
  • Counteracting the Risk of Addiction. Becoming more involved as the parent of an adolescent or teen child can help counteract the risks posed by behavioral choices. Talking with your child and setting rules with consequences can help him or her learn to achieve satisfaction and feelings of excitement in healthier ways. It’s more difficult to make an adult family member adhere to the same rules as might be effective with a child, but setting boundaries can still be helpful in curtailing risky behaviors. Let your adult family member know that you will not bail them out of jail, extend the use of your car or wake up at 3am to let them in the door. By avoiding enabling behaviors that make it easier for your loved one to experiment with drugs or alcohol, you can help prevent a progression towards addiction.
  • Treatments That Address this Factor. Those who engage in risky behaviors often refuse or diminish responsibility for the consequences of those behaviors. During treatment for addiction, your family member will learn to become more responsible and accountable for behavioral choices, how they are affected by their own choices and how those choices impact others. Accountability is a key component to effective treatment and counseling can help you or someone you love accept responsibility where doing so is warranted.
  • Aftercare That Addresses this Factor. Healthy lifestyle changes can make a big difference in the life of a former risk taker who’s become sober. It’s essential for a loved one to discover other ways to find satisfaction and fulfillment in life without having to take dangerous risks. As you continue to remain involved in counseling to address issues that contributed toward addiction and other risky behaviors, getting involved in positive activities that challenge you physically or mentally can provide healthy ways to enjoy an adrenaline rush and feelings of accomplishment.

Factor #4: Social Risk/Peer Pressure

  • What Makes Someone Vulnerable. Every person deals with several layers of society, starting with their core family, and then extending to school, work, their circle of friends and the community. While these various social components provide a positive influence most of the time, they can also add to the risk you or the person you care about face for potential addiction. What happens or doesn’t happen within any of these components of your social existence can make you vulnerable to drug or alcohol experimentation that eventually leads to dependency.
  • Other Risks That Increase the Weight of This Factor. When you or a loved one live in a home environment that leaves you vulnerable to chemical dependency, the addition of other risk factors can easily tip the scales toward substance abuse. The same holds true for other social risks, such as poor economic conditions or an abusive relationship. The encouragement of peers to try something they say will make you feel better can be the nudge that’s needed to begin a drug or alcohol problem.
  • How You are Affected by Social Risk and Peer Pressure. Although we all face social problems throughout our lives, the magnitude of a social risk or presence of several at once can place those you care about at greater risk for addiction. The weight and stress caused by dealing with social problems can reduce your ability to cope, work through or bounce back from life challenges. A loss of resiliency and hope can cause you, a family member or partner to give up and seek relief in any form it can be found, such as drug or alcohol use. Social risks that can affect your family in this way include domestic violence, the presence of addiction in the home, poor socio-economic conditions, bullying or multiple life stressors that occur concurrently.
  • Preserving Health and Wellness. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the presence of protective factors can help preserve health and wellness, while helping a loved one avoid succumbing to the temptation to try drugs or alcohol. These positive factors help lessen the impact of detrimental social risk factors by providing healthier ways to cope with deprivation caused by lack of parental supervision, living in impoverished circumstances or dealing with an abusive relationship.
  • Counteracting the Risk of Addiction. Seeking and obtaining support can help you and someone you care for counteract the effects of social risk and the development of addiction. As the loved one of a family member whose social circumstances place him or her at risk, you can help by ensuring the availability of drugs or alcohol is eliminated from the home. Assistance and support can be sought through a child’s school system or through community service agencies. Lack of insurance or financial means does not have to preclude you and your family from receiving the kind of support that can prevent addiction. Many local and statewide agencies and organizations can provide practical assistance that can make a difference. The opportunity to work with a counselor, mentor or church authority can assist the person at risk in overcoming the social issues that increase the risk of substance abuse.
  • Treatments That Address this Factor. Drugs and alcohol are often used as ways to escape the reality of social circumstances. It might be hard to see how rehabilitation for addiction can help you and your family overcome poverty or escape from an abusive relationship. Regaining your health through detoxification and medical care, coupled with counseling can help you establish feelings of self-worth that empower you to work toward positive change in other areas of your life. The counseling and life skills education you or another member of your family participate in during recovery can help build the skills needed to create positive changes in life.
  • Aftercare That Addresses this Factor. According to the USDA, counseling, psychotherapy and the development of social and practical skills can help maintain all the progress that’s been made after completing recovery treatment for chemical dependency. While maintaining sobriety with counseling and by avoiding known triggers, having the chance to learn positive social skills can equip you or a family member with the ability to make healthier life choices despite life circumstances. Practical skills gained through educational or job training also help promote sobriety by empowering someone you love and yourself to feel that it’s possible to rise above social circumstances.

Factor #5: Lack of Healthy Coping Mechanisms and Life Skills

  • What Makes Someone Vulnerable. A propensity towards drug or alcohol abuse generally occurs when a loved one faces multiple risk factors. The presence of any of the aforementioned risk factors can lead someone you love to have a lack of healthy coping mechanisms or the life skills necessary to avoid experimentation with drugs or alcohol leading to addiction. Not having the skills to work through adversity in a healthy way makes you vulnerable to resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms instead.
  • Other Risks That Increase the Weight of This Factor. When you, a family member or spouse lacks healthy coping mechanisms or life skills there is an increased risk of being influenced by the habits of others. A teen who hasn’t learned how to handle stress in a healthy manner and has no support system at home may be more willing to believe it when a peer suggests that using drugs or drinking alcohol can make the situation better. Additionally, if drugs or alcohol have been used within the family as acceptable coping mechanisms, then children within the family face a greater risk of also turning to substance abuse.
  • How You are Affected by a Lack of Healthy Coping Mechanisms and Life Skills. Lack of healthy coping mechanisms, no matter what the cause, place you at risk whenever an overwhelming amount of pressure occurs. Rather than realizing that there’s a way to work through and overcome the problem, the person affected may believe there’s only temporary escape. In an effort to overcome difficulties, you and your family member will look to others for possible solutions. If the examples and role models available are not positive, it can further solidify unhealthy coping behaviors, such as drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Preserving Health and Wellness. A lack of positive coping mechanisms and effective life skills do not have to lead to substance abuse. Intervention by a caring, supportive person or network can help you or a loved one learn to deal with life stressors in healthier ways. Learning to replace lifelong habits and behavior patterns is not an overnight process, but one that can preserve health, safety and well-being. Family support, a counselor, or a caring presence at school or in the community can be instrumental in helping a family member learn how to deal with a variety of situations in healthier ways.
  • Counteracting the Risk of Addiction. The presence of a positive influence in your life or the life of another family member can counteract the risk of addiction due to lack of healthy coping mechanisms. Teens and adolescents can benefit from spending time with a “big brother” or “big sister” from within the community or the church. An adult family member who’s at-risk of turning to substance abuse can learn better ways to cope with life challenges by working with a respected and trusted mentor.
  • Treatments That Address this Factor. Once the person in treatment completes the detoxification phase of chemical dependency rehabilitation, he or she will begin to participate in other parts of the program that promote the development of healthy coping mechanisms and life skills. Through work with a counselor, attendance to a peer support group and life skills workshops your loved one will learn healthy alternatives for coping with life stressors. Rather than turning to drugs or alcohol, coping techniques such as talking to a support person, using exercise to relieve stress or expressing feelings through creativity will be developed and built upon throughout the program.
  • Aftercare That Addresses this Factor. The life skills and positive coping mechanisms learned during rehabilitation are important to the maintenance of sober living. Your loved one will need the ongoing support of family, friends and a support group or counselor to encourage healthy decision-making. Being surrounded by people who will model positive life skills and good decision-making processes will help you or a newly sober family member continue to build upon the skills learned during treatment. For this reason as well as for sobriety’s sake, it’s important to cut ties with those who will encourage poor choices leading to a relapse into addiction.

Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation: An Effective, Compassionate Solution for a Heartbreaking Problem

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, treatment for chemical dependency is a highly effective solution for a person who wishes to break the cycle of addiction and live a sober life. Although some people attempt to quit drugs or alcohol on their own, doing so can be very dangerous. A program that provides thorough and compassionate care can give you or a member of your family the chance to regain health, hope and happiness through a life of sobriety. The treatment program that’s right for you or the person you care about will address specific factors related to the addiction.

  • The Program is Geared Toward the Specific Addiction. Although some of the same factors contribute toward the development of drug or alcohol dependency, each addiction requires treatment geared toward the specific drug or substance abused. Different substances affect the mind and body in different ways, resulting in the need for variations in rehabilitation. One person may require more intensive medical treatment due to the physical and mental effects of addiction, whereas another person may need more behavioral counseling as dictated by the needs of the substance.
  • The Treatment Addresses all Needs, Not Just Addiction. An effective treatment program takes into consideration that more than just considerations for the substance being abused play a role in rehabilitation. The age of your loved one, his or her medical needs, legal issues and gender are among the issues that must be addressed by the treatment program. A 16-year-old girl requires treatment components that are age appropriate so the rehabilitation program meets her specific needs. Even though she will engage in detoxification, receive medical treatment and participate in counseling, the delivery of these components will be geared to her needs, rather than being delivered in a one-size-fits-all way.
  • Ample Time is Provided to Detox, Recover and Learn. An effective chemical dependency rehabilitation program provides each individual with time to detox, recover physically and mentally, and gain life skills that will help maintain sobriety. The length of time needed for your body to detoxify depends upon the substance that was abused, and it’s important to allow the body to become drug-free. Once you, a partner or other family member have progressed through detoxification, the program staff members can work with the person to address health problems as participation in other portions of the recovery program begins.
  • Counseling is an Integral Part of the Program. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, counseling is one of the most common forms of treatment for addiction. An effective program will include various types of counseling, such as individual, family and group counseling. Working with a counselor helps you and affected family members address behaviors and circumstances that led to addiction. It also helps create a foundation of accountability and responsibility, which is a critical part of remaining sober. Therapy conducted with a peer support group during and after treatment can alleviate feelings of aloneness, while helping you continue to gain new tools for coping with life challenges in healthier ways. Counseling that involves family members is a vital part of treatment for those who will return to a family once they leave the treatment facility.
  • There’s a Plan for Aftercare. An effective aftercare plan is an essential part of a good chemical dependency treatment program. Maintaining the sobriety that your loved one has worked so hard to achieve requires lifelong support and the ability to continue using all that was learned during rehabilitation. As you or another person in your family prepares to finish recovery treatment, you’ll begin to make aftercare plans that might include continued counseling with an addictions counselor, attendance to a peer support group and occasional workshops to boost and strengthen life skills.

If you, a partner or other family member has abused drugs or alcohol and succumbed to chemical dependency, the effects will wreak havoc on your life and probably already have. The serious consequences of addiction can cost you and your family all that you once held dear, such as your health, well-being, financial security and relationships. There is hope, no matter how long chemical dependency has prevailed, to regain the things and people that make your life worth living. At Stop Your Addiction, a caring and knowledgeable staff member waits to help you make the first step toward a better and healthier life. Don’t wait another minute to reach out toward someone who can help. The efforts you make today will provide hope and opportunity where, before, there was none.

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