What leads people to addiction? I often hear this question from the family of those struggling with compulsive behaviors. From the family perspective it may be a question of who’s to blame. It may simply be an attempt to better understand the plight of a loved one. What leads to addiction is a topic of much interest to professional researchers and caregivers as well. Models of addiction have been identified in an attempt to look at addiction in a systematic way. The various models can be broken down and simplified into four main components biological, psychological, sociological, and spiritual.
The first component to addiction is biological. The biological factors include personality, genetic, and other physiological elements. Much research is being done on this front to better understand addiction. Great headway has been made in the area of neurobiology with fascinating results. SPECT brain scans help us understand the effects substance abuse and addictive behaviors have on our brain. For example we have learned that behavior itself creates brain chemistry that has a neurochemical addictive effect and; the same dopamine (The brain’s natural, “feel good” chemical) release that occurs using cocaine or other drugs is released while viewing pornography with almost the same intensity.
The second component to addiction is sociological. Family life, peer pressure, and the influence of the culture are all examples of social factors in addiction. People who had a positive healthy upbringing, who have 3-5 healthy relationships, and whose culture views the addictive behavior negatively are less likely to struggle with addictions. Conversely a negative childhood can set the stage for addictive behavior in adulthood. Peer influence is a huge factor in addictive behavior, and a negative culture can be a breeding ground for addiction.
The third component to addiction is psychological. Lack of self-control, the ability to delay gratification, and emotional disorders can all lead to addictions. The need for acceptance and approval, guilt and shame, powerlessness, hopelessness, confusion, and fear can all lead to addiction.
The fourth component to addiction is spiritual. The Psalmist wrote, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well,” (Psalm 139:14 NIV). God created us not only physical, social, and emotional but also spiritual creatures. The fruit of the Spirit of God working in and through his children are first of all love, joy, and peace (Gal. 5:22). It is out of desperation for a sense of love, acceptance, and value many turn to addiction. Still others seek to be filled with something powerfully pleasurable (Joy). Others seek to find comfort, avoid pain, escape, worry, or feel in control (Peace) through addictions. The Bible teaches that God wants to provide His children with a supernatural love, joy, and peace that passes understanding, is guilt free, and is not destructive to our lives.
It is important to note two factors: 1. A predisposition toward addiction does not guarantee one becomes an addict. Some people who grow up in a dysfunctional family never become addicted, while others who had a healthy home environment do become addicted. 2. A predisposition toward addiction does not excuse bad behavior. If someone has all the cards stacked against him he still needs to take responsibility for his actions and find a healthier solution to life’s problems than turning to compulsive and addictive behaviors.