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Addiction & Treatment

2008 - BRI Defines Its Stance on the Causes of Addiction

Cause or Reason

In 2008 Baldwin researchers began questioning the prevailing wisdom as to "why" people used drugs and/or alcohol, excessively. At that time, 2008, there were many who claimed there were causes (often fabricated) for what was, and is, called "alcoholism" and "addiction." Among the more popular causes was depression, stress, anxiety, genetics, catastrophic life events and so on. Baldwin researchers noted that the vast majority of individuals that experienced depression, stress, anxiety, claimed genetic predisposition and catastrophic life events did not use drugs and/or alcohol excessively. These causes were carefully considered earlier in this report and discarded. So, if these are not the causes for excessive alcohol and/or drug use, why then do some people excessively use drugs and alcohol?

Please consider that before excessive drugs and/or alcohol users begin using, there was a time in their lives when they did not use drugs and/or alcohol. In fact, except for rare occasions, here in the United States, children don't use drugs and/or alcohol. Typically, adolescents, and sometimes pre-adolescents, have had some experience with drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and/or pot, trying prescription drugs and maybe even snorting Ritalin and/or cocaine. These adventures into observed adult or peer behaviors, while presenting certain risks, are not predictors of future habitual drug and/or alcohol use. Some will find their venture into drug and/or alcohol use, i.e. inhaling a cigarette, or a joint, or crack, or a gulp of whiskey, so noxious that their brain stores this experience as an unpleasant (unhappy) experience. They may or may not try it again, and they may or may not have the same experience. If they continue to use substances, in spite of the ill-effects they experience, eventually the ill-effects subside and substance use may then produce pleasurable experiences. More often than not due to peer pressure or fantasizing adulthood, adolescents continue to use substances even when they, personally, find it unpleasant. Further, even though these first encounters with substances are unpleasant, continued use may eventually result in habitual use.

Far and away the most common outcome of adolescents' and young adults' experimentation with drugs and/or alcohol is non-habituating. High school students may drink alcohol to a state of drunkenness or get stoned or snort cocaine after a football game or at graduation parties. And later, in college, they may continue this behavior binging at Frat parties, Friday and Saturday nights, and on spring break or for no reason at all other than enjoying the feeling of being drunk, high or stoned, but then as they mature, their options for happiness change. Instead of continuing their childhood behaviors to achieve immediate gratification, they begin to opt for longer term happiness: a good paying job, that new car they never had, a meaningful relationship, a nice place to live, old or new sports endeavors, leisure time activities and/or advanced degrees. As a natural course of maturing, they replace their old habit of partying to achieve happiness. They opt for personal achievements as their source of happiness. However, not all who practice immediate gratification behaviors, mature. Also, not all replace their habituated drives for immediate gratification with more mature options for achieving happiness; but most do mature and move on with their lives.

Then there are those habituated substance users who claim the very first time they used they were hooked and couldn't stop; i.e. they were immediately "addicted." This, of course, is not true because such claims are inconsistent with the process of habituation. What they are really reporting is that the very first time they used drugs and/or alcohol, it was such a rewarding (happy) experience that they wanted to feel the effect again and again, so they do use intoxicants again and again to achieve the effect. Repetition of any particular activity or thought begins the process of habituation. This explanation is not theory, as is the "disease of addiction" theory. Habituation is a fact.