Addiction: Cause & Effect

Addiction: cause and effectI saw a headline today related to a celebrity who’s a recovering alcoholic. The headline implied a tragic event is revealed in the article which led the celebrity to alcoholism. This is misleading and unsupported scientifically. There’s no evidence which establishes tragic events as a cause of alcoholism. Many people have tragic events happen to them and never become alcoholics. Many alcoholics grow up without any tragedy, yet they’re alcoholics.

When people start drinking alcohol, for whatever reason they start, some are susceptible to alcoholism and some are not. Environmental and psychological factors play their roles in alcoholism, but there’s no established causal role. There are factors which complicate alcoholism, like mental condition, emotional stability, environment, but there’s no evidence that alcoholism is caused by any of these factors.

Research shows that alcohol creates changes in the brains of those susceptible to alcoholism. If a bad childhood caused a person to become an alcoholic, then dealing with the childhood trauma would logically solve the problem and allow the once alcoholic person to drink normally. Many people have died alcoholic deaths using this logic. Changing social contacts and becoming mentally and emotionally healthy doesn’t cure alcoholism. There’s no known cure for alcoholism. Alcoholics often need to change their environment and seek mental and emotional health in order to remain abstinent, but doing these things doesn’t mean the person can then drink safely.

This is from NIH:

As a result of scientific research, we know that addiction is a disease that affects both the brain and behavior. We have identified many of the biological and environmental factors and are beginning to search for the genetic variations that contribute to the development and progression of the disease. Scientists use this knowledge to develop effective prevention and treatment approaches that reduce the toll drug abuse takes on individuals, families, and communities.

Education is critical in understanding drug addiction/alcoholism. Old, false ideas about drinking alcohol and other drug use have to be smashed if we’re going to deal effectively with addiction. To ignore the science is to choose ignorance, and that never works out well.

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