What causes addiction? Part 2 of 2
Oct 8, 2013 / 5:00 am
In part one various theories about the nature of addiction were explained. Each had a singular view of what causes it. At the end of the article, the Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual was noted as being the model which was the most comprehensive.
This model explains addiction as a complex interaction between life factors and that people may enter into addiction through one or a series of gateways. These gateways include the biological, psychological, social and spiritual realms. When they are disrupted in some way the distress may invite individuals to use substances to address the difficulty experienced.
There may be genetic risk factors toward certain kinds of addictive behaviour prevalent in individuals, and populations – especially to alcohol. These groups may comprise ones whose history does not include a long term exposure to that substance. The 12-step support programs refer to this as suffering from an allergy which ironically induces the user to crave more of the same debilitating substance.
Some people become addicted when they turn to a substance to manage chronic pain. Since it may require a long wait in order to be treated (up to two years), people may turn to alcohol or opiates for relief. The problem with going to a substance for pain relief is that it works. It is like going to a loan shark for two-hundred dollars that you desperately need. He will give you the money and you will feel immediate relief, but he will ask for a disproportionate payment of interest. The cost-benefit ratio of the loan then begins to cause problems of its own (i.e. marriage and work problems).
Many people seek relief from psychological pain such as those suffering from schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, depression, and other psychiatric conditions. But the cost-benefit ratio is the same; in fact, the substances may severely aggravate the condition and potentiate or diminish the efficacy of medications.
There are many who use substances because they lack coping skills to deal with the everyday stresses and strains or life, or the many transitions that occur to individuals throughout life (i.e. marriage, career, children, old age, etc.). A lack of coping skills is often noted in adults who as teens used substances like marijuana. When their peers were learning these skills by struggling and experimenting with new behaviours, they used marijuana or alcohol to avoid the pain of these challenges; consequently, they enter adult life with a reduced ability to meet its demands.
Individuals who have grown up in chaotic families where substance use was prevalent learned from their parents and other significant adults about the place of drugs in their lives. Children may reason, “If Mom and Dad do it, why can’t I?” In such families abuse of many kinds may have been present, and substances may have acted as a pain-killer for the outcome of abuse.
Social or peer pressure is often considered to be prevalent only among teens who do not have the intellectual and emotional resources to say ‘no’. Because they want to belong, it is reasoned that they will say ‘yes’ to behaviour with which they may feel uncomfortable. But this is also true of adults.
Think of the TGIF and ‘pub crawl’ parties. If you do not participate you may not feel part of the crew, or you may be shunned if you do not consume the drugs that are often shared during work. While some say that drug use is common among blue collar workers, the truth is that consumption is rife among all occupations. The pressure to “have a beer or two” with the boys is heavy – especially when it takes place illicitly on the job.
The spiritual factor does not necessarily mean ‘religious’ although there is such a thing as spiritual abuse. By spiritual I mean “existential” – questions about existence. They include questions that search for meaning and one’s place in the universe: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? How do I belong? These are questions asked by everyone over the course of his life whether he knows it or not.
These questions are often posed by the elderly who may abuse prescription medication and alcohol as a way of dealing with the existential struggles of advancing age. They may feel abandoned by the one’s they love, struggle with medical issues, or suffer because they do not have a community or group to belong to. Without meaning and a sense of belonging, the souls of people wither.
Many agencies adopt only the bio-psych-social model, but the B.C. Ministry of health & Ministry Responsible for Seniors has wisely kept the spiritual factor within their operating model (March 1996 & updated 2007).
The bio-psycho-social-spiritual model is used not only by substance abuse counsellors but also by many branches of human service such as medicine. It is comprehensive and views addiction as multi-factorial. In other words, it says that addiction is not the simple condition we once thought it was. It is not caused by one life component but by a complex of factors that need to be worked on simultaneously.
If you decide to seek counselling for substance abuse, make sure you ask your prospective counsellor out of which philosophy of he operates. His orientation will influence everything he does with you, and will guide his recommendations.
Read more Breaking Through! articles
- Driving under the influence Dec 3
- Triggers & cravings: Part 1 Nov 19
- What's post-acute withdrawl? Part 2 Nov 5
- What's post-acute withdrawl? Part 1 Oct 22
- What causes addiction? Part 2 of 2 Oct 8
- What causes addiction? Part 1 of 2 Sep 24
- I wanna be a social drinker! Sep 10
- Why women get drunker, faster Aug 27
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