We’ve all heard of somebody known as having an “addictive persona”. Some even say it about themselves. However chances are you’ll be stunned to know there isn’t any such factor.
Regardless of a long time of analysis, no-one has been capable of establish a constant set of persona traits or a single persona sort that may reliably predict whether or not somebody may have issues with alcohol or different medicine.
The event of alcohol or different drug issues is a fancy and difficult-to-predict combine of things. The “addictive persona” is, in essence, only a stereotype.
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The place did the concept of an addictive persona come from?
Almost 90 years in the past, across the time of the delivery of the Twelve Step motion and Alcoholics Nameless, there was a transfer away from excited about alcohol issues as an ethical failing and in direction of taking a extra medical strategy.
Step one on this transition, based mostly on the comparatively little that was recognized about alcohol and different drug issues within the Thirties, was seeing these issues as a persona flaw. It was the perfect rationalization on the time of why some folks develop issues with alcohol and others don’t.
Later these concepts additional developed right into a broader “illness mannequin”. The illness mannequin and the later “mind illness” mannequin considered alcohol and different drug issues as a lifelong and incurable illness of the thoughts, making abstinence the one choice.
Why is the concept of an addictive persona an issue?
The time period “addictive persona” usually conjures up detrimental pictures: weak, unreliable, egocentric, impulsive, missing management. It’s a stereotype that will increase stigma about alcohol and different drug issues and reinforces the concept change is troublesome or inconceivable. And stigma prevents folks from looking for assist after they want it.
The addictive persona concept may also lead folks to imagine they’re both destined for issues, or utterly protected against them, neither of which is true. For individuals who do expertise issues, they could have a way of helplessness about managing their use.
It’s a shorthand means of claiming, “I can’t do something about it”.
Does Alcoholics Nameless truly work?
Is there any reality to the addictive persona concept?
We now know some individuals who have issues with alcohol or different medicine can return to common use. And most of the people expertise issues with just one drug, utilizing different medicine in non-problematic methods. Each of this stuff contradict the addictive persona principle as a result of they recommend there’s a stage of management.
However there are some traits which can be extra more likely to be present in individuals who have issues with alcohol or different medicine.
There are two primary persona clusters that appear to extend threat of issues: risk-taking or impulsiveness, and unhappy or anxious temperaments. Or a mix of each. Each threat takers and excessive achievers usually tend to develop alcohol or drug issues.
The frequent thread to those seemingly unrelated traits is issue regulating feelings.
This partly explains why individuals who have skilled trauma have a better threat of growing alcohol or different drug issues, and why there are greater charges of dependence amongst folks with ADHD. Each these situations improve exercise within the limbic system, the a part of the mind liable for emotional reactions, and reduce exercise in components of the prefrontal cortex, the logical a part of the mind that helps regulate emotional responses.
There’s some genetic element to persona – between 30% and 60%. And there’s additionally some genetic element to the event of alcohol or different drug issues – 45%-65% for alcohol. However inherited persona traits are a results of greater than 700 doable gene interactions and there’s no single “persona gene” that results in alcohol or different drug issues.
A greater rationalization
We now know the event of alcohol and different drug issues is influenced by various components.
Many US troops in Vietnam within the Nineteen Seventies developed a dependence on heroin and used it recurrently whereas they had been in Vietnam, however they stopped shortly as soon as they returned residence. So it’s not simply the drug itself or the individual utilizing it, but in addition the place it’s getting used.
Some drug specialists consult with this as “drug, set and setting”: the qualities of drug itself, particular person traits, and the context wherein the medicine are used.
However how do these mixed components result in problematic drug use and dependence?
After many a long time of behavioural and neuroscience analysis we now know the mind could be very plastic and continues to be taught and form itself with new experiences proper all through our lives.
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Right here’s the way it works: any time we do one thing nice, we get just a little burst of dopamine within the mind. The dopamine makes us really feel good and says to our mind “you must attempt that once more someday”.
Alcohol and different medicine launch plenty of dopamine. Some medicine launch greater than others.
Our brains shortly join the dots between motion (taking the drug) and reward (feeling good). That pathway is strengthened every time the drug is used. If we add robust feelings like intense pleasure or reduction then the connection will get even stronger. That is referred to as operant conditioning. The extra you utilize, the extra these associations are more likely to kind. Some folks’s brains naturally launch extra dopamine than others so their pathways are fashioned sooner and stronger.
Our mind additionally notices cues within the surroundings that turn out to be indicators for drug use and may set off a want or craving to make use of. For those who use the identical particular glass each time you’ve gotten a drink or sit in the identical chair each time you smoke a joint, the mind notices that connection. So if you see that cup or sit in that chair you would possibly really feel just a little urge to make use of even when there isn’t any drug. That is referred to as Pavlovian conditioning.
So somewhat than a hard and fast persona trait, the motivation to make use of alcohol or different medicine is pushed largely by our mind studying associations between the results of a drug (drug), our particular person response to the drug (set) and the surroundings wherein the drug is used (setting).
It’s nice information as a result of what’s learnt could be unlearnt. And it means alcohol and different drug use and issues usually are not inevitable, even in case you have a genetic or persona predisposition.
In case you are frightened about your individual or another person’s alcohol or different drug use, you may contact the Nationwide Alcohol and different Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015 at no cost, confidential recommendation.
Nicole Lee works as a advisor within the alcohol and different drug sector and a psychologist in non-public observe. She presently and has beforehand been awarded funding by Australian and state governments, NHMRC and different our bodies for analysis and analysis into alcohol and different drug prevention and remedy.
Paula Ross is a psychologist with a drug and alcohol consultancy and maintains a non-public observe.
Steven Bothwell is a advisor for a drug and alcohol consultancy.