Wired for addiction?

By: Jennifer Pretty Aug 16, 2011

It feels like every time I turn on the TV or flip through a magazine, another celebrity has died as a result of substance abuse. 

Most recently, singer Amy Winehouse was found dead in her home. Reports say the cause of death won’t be released until October due to the wait for toxicology reports, but it is well-known that Winehouse had a ongoing and very public battle with alcohol and drug addiction.

It makes me wonder if some people are wired for addiction? This argument has been discussed for years, but according to a recent article in the New York Times, scientists are beginning to come up with answers.

Many people experiment with drugs but don’t become addicted. Research shows there are some traits that may make a person more susceptible to addiction:

1) Psychiatric Illness:  People with mental health problems including mood and anxiety have been shown to be more than three times more likely to have an addictive disorder according to the National Institute of Mental Health’s Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study.  60% of people with a substance disorder also suffer with a mental illness. Drugs and alcohol are awful antidepressants and only worsen many real problems.

2) Personality Disorders: People who battle with feelings of inadequacy often turn to drugs or alcohol because it allows them to have a sense of power and confidence.  People who struggle to control impulses and aggression often turn to these substances to alleviate their moods.

3) Developmental Brain Disorder: Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse has shown through brain-imaging that cocaine, heroin and alcohol addicts have fewer dopamine receptors in their brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is important to experience feelings of enjoyment. The studies suggest that many addicts have a dulled reward system. For them, everyday enjoyments don’t compare to the rewards they get from drug use.

4) Environment: In some environments, drug use is encouraged. Even people who have no genetic pre-disposition to drug addiction may still fall victim in a demanding environment where drugs are accessible.

Substance abuse is often glamorized in movies and music. The fatal reality of addiction is now being “de-glamorized” through media outlets like A&E’s television show Intervention. Intervention shows everyday North American’s hitting rock bottom due to their substance abuse and the devastating consequences their addiction has on their family and friends. Some people may have traits that make them more susceptible to addiction, but under certain circumstances it can affect anyone. Make no mistake about it, addiction is a disease. It’s important to talk to your teens about the reality of drug abuse so that they never go down that road. Too many won’t come back from it.


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!


Jennifer Pretty began her career as the director of artist development for a well-known Canadian music label. Branching out on her own, she then started her own PR business “Pretty Media Management” planning and hosting various charity, entertainment and fashion events. As a dance and fitness class enthusiast Jennifer is a firm believer in the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. She also loves to cook, travel, spend time with family and friends and most importantly living life to the fullest!