Why is addiction bad

Psychiatry, Psychosomatics & Psychotherapy

Causes of an addiction disease

Physical (biological, genetic), psychological and social factors play an important role in the development and maintenance of addiction. All "substance-related" addictions cause a psychological and a physical dependency, which mutually reinforce each other.

Depending on the type of drug, a habituation effect occurs after a certain period of time. The body gets used to regular drug administration and reacts with an accelerated breakdown of the substance or special adaptation processes within the nervous system. Accordingly, the drug effect decreases with repeated administration. In order to counteract this tolerance, the drug has to be consumed in increasing amounts.

Addiction is understood as a learned reaction that is controlled by a "drug memory". According to the latest scientific findings, addictive substances activate various messenger substances, especially the messenger substance dopamine, in a certain area of ​​the brain. In the so-called "limbic system", which is responsible for pain , emotional behavior and especially our well-being is responsible, drugs ensure an increased release of messenger substances. It is assumed that this mediates the reward effect felt by the addiction patient. This increased distribution puts people in the mood they want. These positive feelings, in turn, reinforce the behavior to the extent that one wants to hold onto this state permanently. For example, previously neutral stimuli (e.g. certain situations or emotional states) that are associated with drug use by the person concerned can trigger unconscious reactions (conditioning) and arouse drug cravings. The uncontrolled desire for the addictive substance arises because its consumption either alleviates withdrawal symptoms or produces pleasant effects.

Some people show a reduced responsiveness to this "reward system". This deficit could be compensated by drug use, so that these people are at an increased risk of developing addiction.

The fact that addictions are more common within families suggests that both genes and the home environment have an influence on the development of addiction syndrome. Twin and family studies have shown that there is a biological predisposition to addiction and that special gene constellations can, for example, increase the risk of alcohol dependence.

In addition to the genetic predisposition, a lack of “role model” on the part of parents and a poor home environment are further addiction-promoting causes. Children often orient themselves in their reactions to the behavior that their parents or legal guardians exemplify For them drug use is the order of the day, it is not surprising that adolescent children "resolve" their conflicts in the same way. A desolate family structure, a lack of care, violence and abuse also ensure that those affected suppress childhood traumas and unpleasant memories that were not dealt with later through drug use.

In addition to these various biological and familial aspects, social influences also play a role in the development of an addiction. Dependency occurs to the same extent in all social classes. However, there are differences in the respective school systems. For example, children at secondary schools come into contact with tobacco and other substances more frequently and earlier. Availability is an important factor in initial and continued use. As a rule, access - especially to illegal drugs - is easier in the city than in rural areas. In particular with adolescents, "peer pressure" promotes the entry into an addiction. Often a lack of recognition, popularity and own insecurity is covered up or suppressed with the corresponding drugs. If the person concerned gains more respect within the group through the use of drugs, the drug gains more and more in importance, consumption is increased, the path to addiction begins.

The existence of their own "addictive personality" has not yet been scientifically proven. An increased risk of addiction can only be demonstrated for people with a so-called antisocial personality disorder. People with an antisocial personality disorder are noticeable for impaired and irresponsible social behavior even before the age of 15. They are non-conforming, irritable, aggressive, inconsiderate and unrepentant. Those affected have often skipped school, run away from home and often start fistfights. The risk of developing Antisocial Personality Disorder increases after the time Knowledge level also decisively influenced by biological prerequisites (genetic components in impulse control disorders) and social environment.

Technical support: Dr. med. Anil Batra, Tübingen (DGPPN)