In the world of psychology, the nature versus nurture debate comes up in the discussion of many disorders and behaviors. Is the behavior being studied a product of genes and DNA? Or is the behavior a result of the social environment the patient experiences? This debate surrounds the issue of drug addiction as well. Is drug addiction a result of genetic heritage, or is it a learned behavior?
The Difference Between Nature and Nurture
The Argument for Nature
As of yet, science has not been able to pinpoint an exact genetic marker responsible for addiction. However, this doesn’t mean that genes have nothing to do with addiction. Through case studies and laboratory findings, it’s clear that a family history of addiction does, indeed, seem to make drug addiction more likely. When discussing genetics, it’s important to remember that just because a certain genetic make-up might result in a susceptibility to drug addiction, that susceptibility is not a guarantee of addiction. People constantly rise above what appear to be genetic predispositions and, with the proper understanding, it is possible to keep the genetic susceptibility in a state of dormancy.
The Argument for Nurture
Whenever the nature versus nurture argument is made, it soon becomes clear that it is usually quite difficult to completely separate the two. For example, some might say that drug addiction is a result of family genetic history. However, what if it’s not the genes that decide the behavior, but the family environment of drug use that is truly to blame? It seems clear that social nurturing is strongly linked to drug addiction. If someone grows up surrounded by drug use, they are more likely to try drugs themselves. If kids at school are pushing drugs, or if family members encourage the behavior, it can be hard for a child to turn away. There is definitely a strong link between social environment and drug addiction.
Nature and Nurture
Perhaps the best way to view drug addiction is as a product of nature and nurture working together. For example, if someone who already has a genetic predisposition to drug addiction is then exposed to a social environment that fosters drug use, it makes it even harder for them to overcome their genetic tendencies. When drug addiction is analyzed, it makes sense to approach it from multiple perspectives in order to gain a greater understanding of its causes and how best to treat it.
The Road to Recovery
Whether a person’s drug addiction has been more influenced by nature or by nurture, one thing is clear: Recovery is possible. There are many treatment options available. Once a person is committed to changing their behavior, they need to research facilities and find one that promises an environment of support and one that is grounded in the belief that change is possible. While therapists will not be able to change the genetic influences, they can do a lot to change the environmental factors associated with drug use. Through careful, knowledgeable, and patient effort, the cycle of drug abuse can be broken and a new life can begin.