A recent study undertaken by The National Centre on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University in the US puts forth that substance abuse has its origin in years of adolescence. The study found that 90% of Americans who are battling with addiction began smoking and consuming drugs and alcohol before the age of 18.
These figures might not surprise as adolescence is associated with experimentation and rebellion. While some concerned parents might already feel the urge to lock up their children out of fright, it is perhaps more conducive to explore some of the facts of addiction and ways in which we can attempt to prevent the onset of this dangerous disease.
As you might be aware, addiction is a catch-all term for a complex behavioural disorder, which has psychological, genetic, and psychosocial aspects. So while addiction is considered a disease because of the observable effects it exerts on the brain, addiction is not solely a genetically determined entity. It might be useful to think of addiction as a disease that is genetically disposed, but environmentally proposed, which means that addiction is a result of a complex interplay of psychophysiological and environmental factors that can impinge upon a genetically predisposed individual.
One of our previous blog posts on teenage alcoholism discusses the role of parental guidance in teenage drinking. And studies suggest that an authoritarian parenting style when it comes to teenage drinking and use of recreational drugs diminishes the chances of subsequent addiction.
Importantly, addiction does not happen in a vacuum and is a complex disease. Thus family values and positive role modelling will go some way in counteracting some of the societal and psychological risk factors involved. Genetic predisposition is one obvious risk factor among many other, thus where addiction runs in the family, extra caution might need to be exercised. At any rate, it is not possible to outsmart addiction, but by addressing modifiable factors involved in this serious disease, the genetic risk factor might be lessened.