Genetic predisposition is one of three main factors that contribute to the development of substance abuse. According to this, there’s a likelihood for dependency to occur when an individual has a family history of alcohol/drug dependency and their genetic information contains the particular set of genes i.e. coded information found within a person’s DNA, that control addictive behavior, and are expressed when the individual begins recreational drug use and becomes dependent on them. However, a genetic predisposition doesn’t mean that the individual is inherently an addict or that he/she is going to wind up with a substance abuse problem. It is only after certain factors are taken into consideration and the occurrence of a recreational drug habit does the genetic predisposition take over and the user develops both a psychological and physiological dependence on the substance after long-term abuse. The user’s genetic predisposition, or lack thereof, can determine if they reach this stage of addiction and will make it increasingly difficult to permanently end the addiction.
The pathways to drug dependence involve the following stages of substance abuse: experimentation, routine use, and addiction or dependence, and genetic predisposition plays a part in each of them.
Experimentation occurs when the individual decides to try out, or “experiment”, with a substance, normally due to peer pressure or party culture centered on psychological pleasure, which can be achieved by a high that only certain substances can provide. Yet, this only transpires when the substance, which is most likely illegal for recreational use, is readily available, and this availability plays an important role in drug culture and who is most likely to abuse what. The experimental phase is crucial in the road to addiction, as this is when the experimenter decides whether he wishes to pursue recreational drug activity, or not. If the individual has a family history of drug abuse, where one of his immediate or even distant relatives developed their own habit, they are at a higher risk of abuse by “50%” (https://www.ncadd.org/).
Many of the drugs experimented with fall into one of the following categories: depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens. Depressants, sometimes called “downers”, such as alcohol, and opioids, can slow brain function, lower blood pressure, slur speech and ultimately, slows pulse and breathing so that an overdose would most likely be caused by a heart attack or cardiac arrest, when the heart stops beating. Stimulants, usually called “uppers”, like cocaine and amphetamines, lead to short-term exhaustion, apathy, and depression, while long-term abuse gives way into feelings of hostility or paranoia. Finally, hallucinogens, which are substances with hallucinatory effects, which comprise marijuana, hashish, and BHO extracts, and cause “increased heart rate, lessened coordination and balance, and a “dreamy,” unreal state of mind—peak within the first 30 minutes” (http://www.drugfreeworld.org/). If the person decides to continue using the drug, it becomes a routine use, as they get high with their friends or by themselves, overstimulating the pleasure centers of their brain, and getting the individual hooked. This interferes with the wiring of the brain and makes it so the mind, and consequently the body, becomes unable to function without that substance. The periodic use of the substance slowly transitions into addiction/abuse after the user’s routine starts to be more and more inclusive of the substance.
Genetic predisposition can it make it likely for an individual to either be substance-specific in his addiction if a family member suffered/suffers from the same addiction, or be more open to drugs in general, with one serving as the gateway to another,
Lastly, there comes the actual addiction or dependence after long-term substance abuse. After experiencing the highs that come with the substance, and after repeated exposure their body and mind develop a tolerance where their body becomes used to the drug that it loses its affect and they need more of it to experience the high. Because of this substance intoxication, they develop a psychological dependence, where the user has become reliant on the drug and its accompanied high for psychological pleasure that he/she cannot willingly give that up for any length of time, believing that certain daily activities require that drug, otherwise their performance or function will decline, such as when marijuana users think they need weed to sleep fitfully, though eventually they won’t have a problem with that. However, with physiological dependence, the user experiences physical symptoms from withdrawal, including nausea, tremor, aches and chills, and delirium, all a result of the body not getting what it’s so used to having on a regular basis.
Though it may seem as if addiction is a dead-end, the road doesn’t stop there. Instead, the user meets a fork in the road, where he/she, their family, or society determine if they should seek treatments and medical help to relieve them of this addiction once and for all. Seeking medical treatment is not only beneficial to society, which is rescued from the potential dangers involved with addiction, such as a lack of self-control and willingness to commit illegal acts to get their substance-of-choice, but also beneficial to the user, who may eventually quit the substance and go back to leading somewhat of a normal life again. Though the road down rehabilitation and sobriety can be long and arduous, the reward at the end of it makes it worthwhile. Most times, true rehabilitation takes years of mindfulness, self-control around the substance, and personal growth to overcome the addiction and get the monkey off their back.
A misconception related as to who is more likely to develop substance abuse problems is that drug culture is connected to minorities, when that is not the case. If anything, African-Americans and Latinos have equal, if not fewer rates of drug-addiction than European-Americans, whom usually end up living in the suburbs and suffering from consistent boredom, which is why they turn to mind-altering substances to keep them busy and pass the time. Which is why cocaine, heroin and other opioids are becoming more and more prevalent in suburban areas. Out of the 16% of Americans ages 12 and over, 10% are addicted to alcohol and illegal/prescription drugs, which is a few million people. Genetic predisposition following a pattern of newer generations taking cues from the older ones who dabbled in substances and the idea of its being “cool” skyrocketed,
In the end, none of the factors, especially a genetic predisposition count for anything, as the choice is the user’s from whether they become addicted to if they desire to take the path to recovery or not, however there’s a strong possibility that the user will likely die from an overdose or another drug-related incident in his/her foreseeable future. Whether it’s from an overdose, criminal activity etc. substance abuse leads to nothing but trouble. With addiction comes the inevitable fallout: an individual loses his friends, family, his life revolving around his substance-of-choice. His/her environment and sociocultural elements clearly plays a role in their path to addiction, as well genetic predisposition, but ultimately, the user’s decision to better himself or not is completely his own.