Entries tagged with “underlying factors”.


Causes of alcoholism

Many of the people who seek alcohol addiction treatment have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings who’ve also struggled with alcohol abuse. However, alcoholism isn’t inherited in the same way you’d inherit blue eyes and blond hair. Addiction develops as the result of a complex interaction between genes and environmental risk factors.

Genes That Affect Alcoholism Risk

There is no single gene responsible for developing alcoholism. However, research does suggest that certain combinations of genes are responsible for increasing the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. For example:

Personality traits: Genes linked to personality traits such as impulsivity and disinhibition are also associated with an increase in substance abuse disorders.

Predisposition to mental health disorders: The same genes that are linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders are also associated with an increased risk of alcohol abuse, but this is often attributed to the tendency of people suffering from mental health disorders to try to self-medicate.

Changes in how alcohol affects the body: Some gene combinations create changes in the body’s dopamine reward systems, leaving people to experience greater levels of reinforcement or reward from alcohol use and thus increasing the likelihood of problem drinking.

Race: Genetic variants in people of different races have been linked to an increase in alcoholism, with Native Americans have the highest number of alcohol use severity phenotypes.

Although the average person doesn’t have access to sophisticated genetic testing, you can reasonably determine your genetic risk for alcoholism by counting the number of blood relatives who also suffer from alcohol use disorders.

Environmental Factors That Affect Alcoholism Risk

Certain environmental factors can increase the risk of a child developing an alcohol use problem, even if there are minimal genetic risk factors at work. For example:

Societal acceptance: Regularly seeing television shows, movies, and music that portray drinking as a harmless way to have fun normalize the behavior.

Parental modeling: Seeing parents deal with everyday stress by becoming intoxicated sets this behavior up as normal in child’s mind.

Peer pressure: Friends who encourage regular drinking promote a pattern of overindulgence.
Exposure to outside trauma: Children who are exposed to verbal, physical, or sexual abuse are more likely to experiment with alcohol.

Age at first drink: Multiple studies have shown that the younger you are when you take your first drink, the more difficulty you’ll have regulating your alcohol intake. These studies proved instrumental in setting the legal drinking age to 21.

Genetics Aren’t Destiny

When discussing the causes of alcoholism, it’s important to keep in mind that many diseases are caused by a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. For example, someone with a parent, grandparent, or sibling who suffers from Type 2 diabetes is considered genetically predisposed to the condition. Even with this added risk, a commitment to eating a well-balanced diet and getting regular physical exercise can drastically reduce their risk of becoming diabetic. Lifestyle changes made after a diagnosis can also be beneficial, sometimes creating enough of a change in blood sugar levels to allow diabetics to reduce or discontinue their insulin all together.

Children of alcoholic parents have two to four times the risk of becoming alcoholics as adults. This risk factor remains even in cases where the child is adopted and raised in a family where neither parent has an alcohol use disorder. However, despite this increased genetic risk, less than half of children with an alcoholic parent grow up to abuse alcohol themselves. Some protective environmental factors that can prevent alcohol abuse include:

Receiving education on the negative effects of alcohol use: Having a full understanding of genetic risk factors and the health effects of alcohol abuse is associated with lower levels of problem drinking.

Developing strong social connections to family and friends: Feeling loved and supported by the people around you makes you less likely to want to turn to alcohol for comfort.

Developing positive ways to cope with stress: People who use exercise, meditation, music, art therapy, or other stress-relieving activities to handle everyday pressures are less likely to abuse alcohol.
Seeking help for mental health disorders: Counseling and support from a trained mental health professional reduces the desire to self-medicate with alcohol.

You can’t control your genetic makeup, but genetics alone won’t determine your fate. If you’re ready to break the cycle of addiction, help is available. St. Joseph Institute’s addiction treatment facility can address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual issues underlying your alcohol abuse and set you on the path to a lasting recovery.

By Dana Hinders

 

To learn more about our programs or for a campus tour of St. Joseph Institute, please visit our website.


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In the next several blogs we’ll discuss connections between the Stations of the Cross and the stages of addiction. The first Station is about Jesus’ condemnation to death; just like many addicts, He felt a sense of abandonment and rejection.

Station 1: Abandonment and RejectionMany people have life experiences which cause them to feel abandoned or rejected. These feelings are deep and penetrating, and can be so extreme that they cause a condition known as reactive attachment disorder; when a person learns to feel unwanted and unloved. Millions of children grow up with this condition due to neglect and/or abuse from their parents. This emotional emptiness can manifest as an underlying factor that causes a person to seek comfort and consolation for their pain by using drugs or drinking alcohol. Without some sort of psychological or spiritual intervention to heal these early wounds, the comfort they find in alcohol or drugs may turn into an addiction.

Other people experience abandonment and rejection during later periods of life. Some people are tormented because of a learning disability, speech impediment, lack of coordination, physical impairment, inferior socioeconomic status, etc. Others face challenges such as betrayal by a friend, breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, divorce, failure in work or school, and most commonly, the death of a loved one. The list goes on and on. Nearly every person suffering from addiction has a story rejection or abandonment.

 

Here’s a quick story about a resident who recently came to St. Joseph Institute. Names have been changed but all other details are true:

Brad was a guy who had everything going for him up until a year before he entered addiction treatment. At admission he was confused about how he’d gotten into such a devastating downward spiral. Most of his life had been happy and fulfilling; he had a good job, owned his own home and was engaged to be married. He had all the elements of a successful life, and yet, he had developed an opiate addiction that he couldn’t stop.

His story was quite mysterious until he had his first bodywork session when we began to discuss the recent death of his best friend, Dave. Brad had discussed this loss previously and thought it had been resolved. But what we discovered while unwinding the deep, restricted patterns in his core was that the grief he felt from his friend’s loss was far more intense and complicated than he had understood.

Dealing with AddictionDuring childhood Dave and Brad had been so close that he described their relationship as being more like brothers than friends. They did everything together, and remained close during elementary school, high school and college. Then Dave entered military service and went overseas on a tour of duty. When Dave returned he was distinctly changed. He was distant and they no longer talked or had fun together. Brad was confused and hurt, and felt rejected by his best friend. He simply could not reach Dave.

Tragically, Dave took his own life. Brad felt an immense sense of mental anguish and torment.

As we continued his therapy and bodywork sessions, we discussed the traumatic effects of war and how it can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Brad was slowly able to make sense of Dave’s odd behavior after returning from active duty and his eventual suicide. In addition, he was able to see how Dave’s war trauma had created trauma in his own life – like a domino effect. Brad’s grief had started with Dave’s return from military service, then continued to increase while he watched his friend suffer from PTSD – a condition that neither one of them recognized nor understood. After Dave’s suicide, Brad’s depression was exacerbated further when he was struck by the reality that his lifelong companion would not be standing next to him as the best man at his wedding. Brad closed down in his relationship with his fiancé, just like Dave had closed down in his relationship with Brad.

Discussing these issues revealed a whole new perspective to Brad and allowed him to release the trauma from his core. Brad realized his fiancé was experiencing losing him emotionally, just as he had experienced losing Dave. He left treatment sober, with the goal of honoring Dave by remaining open with his new bride and beginning their marriage with happiness and honesty. It has now been 9 months, 14 days and Brad remains sober… and happily married.

 

By Michael Campbell


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People drink and use drugs for a reason; they want to feel different. For many of them that reason is hazy when they first enter treatment. As they detox and their brains begin to heal, they are able to make the connection between life events and their pattern of drinking or using. They see that there were underlying contributing factors that caused them to start, and often there were additional life events that escalated the problem, causing them to drink or use more. They often used their drug of choice to self-medicate and relieve pain.

On a physical level we find that some addicts drink or use to combat fatigue or exhaustion, while others suffer from chronic illness or physical pain. They might rationalize this problematic behavior, telling themselves “it’s ok since the medications were prescribed by a doctor.”

Addict suffering from depression

On a mental level we find that some alcoholics and addicts are depressed and they drink or use to help lift their mood. Others struggle with anxiety due to mental anguish. They may be troubled by constant internal conflict or racing thoughts that prevent their minds from resting. They find that drugs quiet their mind, reducing the constant chatter or negative thought patterns or past memories that are intruding into the present moment.

On an emotional level, many people struggle because they’ve never been taught to acknowledge their emotions and manage them in healthy ways. Some people have suffered from emotional wounding that resulted from divorce, death, abuse or neglect. If they have never dealt successfully with the underlying issues, they may be using alcohol or drugs to bury their emotional pain.

On a social level the factors are often related to shyness, feelings that you don’t belong or fit in, or perhaps an intense level of social anxiety. They may struggle bonding with others, participating in effective communication, or resolving conflicts. Some people become addicted simply because they are curious and naïve, thinking “they’ll just experiment with alcohol or drugs” without any appreciation of how powerfully addicting these substances can be. These people may try an addictive substance because of “peer pressure” or a desire to “fit in” or to “be popular.” Depending on the drug and the genetic predisposition of the person, they may find themselves rapidly addicted.

Whatever the underlying issues, they need to be identified and healed because they exert powerful forces that contribute to patterns of addiction. Until they are addressed and cleared, they will cause an alcoholic or addict to continue to drink or use, or to be at risk of relapse.

By Michael Campbell


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