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MythBusters: Addiction is a lack of willpower

Addiction can be faced by any person belonging to any background, social status, race, or gender. However, scientists have proven that some people are at greater risk of indulging in substance abuse and addiction than others. This is determined by certain factors other than lack of self-control such as genetics, family history, mental health, and the environment. 


Understanding the risk factor is essential as the approaches of blaming and testing an addict's willpower do not help anyone. Blindly blaming addicts only adds to stigmatisation and restricts better public awareness around addiction making it difficult for a recovering addict to lead a normal life. Such views rather end up making addicts feel ashamed which could drive them back to substance abuse as these are difficult emotions to deal with. Stigmatisation not only makes it difficult to lead a normal life after recovery but also makes it harder to seek help trapping the addict in this vicious cycle of low self-esteem and addiction.


Risk Factors For Addiction:


To bust this myth that addiction is complete because of a lack of willpower, here we enlist some other important factors that put any individual at a greater risk of being an addict.  


1. Genetic factors: - There is a connection between substance abuse and genetics. If there is any family member in your bloodline who has had or currently struggling with alcohol or drug problems, it puts you at a higher risk too. Addiction may often run in families and can be passed down to children and play a crucial role in the development of alcohol and drug abuse. Additionally, the presence of some genes may lead to difficulty in quitting once they start using drugs. They may undergo severe withdrawal symptoms in their path of recovery. Therefore, it is essential to conduct a DNA test for addiction to help better treat the addict and plan a suitable recovery path as per their needs.


2. Metabolic factors: - Addiction can also be affected by your metabolism. Each person has a different system of absorbing and processing compounds which can determine the effect of a drug on their body. For example, if the body can’t store nutrients very well it will do the same with alcohol. So, they consume a larger amount of alcohol for the same effects. This will start damaging the intestinal tract as a result, the body will fail to absorb and utilise vitamins, minerals and other nutrition provided by foods. This cycle continues to slowly damage the whole system. Also, the effects of these substances are different as they are chemically unique. For instance, heroin can stimulate a higher brain activity than morphine.


3. Environmental Risk Factors for Addiction: - An individual’s environment plays a prominent role in pushing a person towards substance abuse. Environmental factors that are responsible for increasing a person’s risk include the following:


  • Home and Family– A teen lacking parental care or staying in an abusive home may often have much-unresolved trauma that can push them towards drugs and alcohol to cope.
  • Peers and School- While growing up, a teen can be highly influenced by peers who can tempt them to try drugs for the first time to fit in. This can lead to addiction even without a genetic factor if not intervened soon.

4. Social Risk Factors for Substance Abuse: - Social factors can include popularity, bullying, relationships, and association with gangs that might put an adolescent at risk of seeking refuge in drugs and alcohol. Other possible factors might be work or family-related issues that influence an adult towards addiction.


5. Other Risk Factors of Addiction: - A person facing mental health issues such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anxiety are also factors that also contribute to substance abuse and addiction issues. People rely on drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism unaware of the fact that certain substances actually do more harm by increasing depression and anxiety.


People who suffer chronic pain may be at risk of getting addicted to opioids as they are usually prescribed as pain management medications after an illness, injury, or surgery. But some people might develop an addiction to those painkillers, and a person without any of the above risk factors can also become addicted. 




There are several factors that contribute to substance abuse apart from sheer lack of willpower which is hard to overcome. Therefore, it is important to create awareness towards these risk factors which will help people at risk to mindfully take precautions. People who are struggling with addiction or on their path to recovery require proper care and the right mindset to overcome their obstacles. Addiction is treatable, so if you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, get help today. 

Dr. Raman Sharma
Meet The Doctor
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