Addiction is defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) “as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. Certain individuals have genetic and environmental predispositions to addiction. This does not necessarily mean that a person will become addicted in their lifetimes, but certain factors can come together to create this perfect storm scenario of addiction. When looking at addiction and its causes we must look at the entire framework. Addiction does not emerge in and of itself; addiction has many factors that cumulate in the individual. The bio-psycho-social-spiritual approach to addiction encompasses the entirety of the brain disease.
An individual is born with an inherent biological component that leads them to being more susceptible than another person. THIQ (tetrahydroisoquinolone) is a genetic marker that has only been in the brain of addicts and alcoholics at point of autopsy. These individuals are born with the inactive form of THIQ in their brain and upon using a substance (i.e. using drugs or alcohol) the genetic marker becomes active and provides and instant relief to the individual. THIQ is known to be more addictive than morphine and as the individual continues to use the brain chemical THIQ will build in the brain which leads the person to use more and more of the drug to get the desired results (known as chasing the high). This explains the progression of the disease of addiction from abuse to dependence and further explains the individual’s continuing to use despite experiencing many adverse negative consequences. The biological factors are one of the key components to the development of addiction.
Also individuals may have a psychological disorder; a mood disorder (bipolar disorder) or a personality disorder (borderline personality disorder) that can also leave the individual more susceptible to the disease of addiction. Using drugs to cope with highly negative emotions is common and can lead to addiction. Mental illness also runs in families along with substance abuse. If the individual was raised in a family with active substance addiction and or mental illness the dysfunction, which is common in addicted families, can lead an individual to psychological trauma. This psychological factor can reinforce the other factors that lead to the development of addiction.
The social elements come into play when discussing the key component causing factors of addiction. The home is the first socialization that a child has in life, so if there are dysfunctional family dynamics this comes into play in addiction development. Also school socializations and other friends, family and significant interactions can have a significant impact addiction development. Some social circles glorify drug use, some condemn, and some use causing dysfunctional family patterns to cumulate. Social support is important and if there is a lack of support and acceptance the individual might seek it out from negative sources whether it is gang relations, drugs use, or unstable relationships.
Also, addiction has been linked to a lack of spirituality and ironically with furthered drug using the individual will have less of a connection with a sense of spirituality. Spirituality ties individuals with a higher source and connection to the universe. It guides individuals with the belief that there is a high purpose to life and the positive and negative events that happen in their lifetime. As human beings we need attachments and connections, so having a lack of connection leads to feelings of aimlessness and search for something to fill the space which some individuals fill with drugs or alcohol.
Bio-psycho-social-spiritual factors can lead to the development of addiction in some individuals. Not all individuals will become addicted, but with the right development of biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors coupled with the first use can lead to addiction. These factors developed at an early age may not be the individual’s fault, but the recovery from the addiction is the persons responsibility. Understanding the underlying framework of the development of addiction is subsequently the answer to the treatment. The baseline to the recovery process will be that of a bio-psycho-social-spiritual approach at most recovery programs like the Meehl Foundations’ Borderline Personality Disorder treatment and Addiction program that does so through dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT treatment).