When people contact us seeking information about addiction often they ask the same question. What causes addiction? We tell them about the four theories of addiction, the genetic theory, the environmental theory, the psychological theory, and the spiritual theory, which merely gives them a basic understanding. When discussing the theories we often repeat that we can’t be 100% sure what causes addiction but what is important is that addiction can be treated and arrested.
We then proceed to discuss each idea behind the theories. The genetic theory states that a person is born with a predisposition to develop an addiction. Most people can relate to this theory and begin to talk about their relatives who have an addiction. Of course someone always says something like “ How could Johnnie have an addiction when no one in our family ever had an addiction?.” This is where the conversation can extend to genetic research and following the family tree down.
So we move on to the environmental theory which states that factors in the environment influence addiction. This theory looks at how growing up around others who use substances may have influenced their behavior. There are so many ways in which environmental factors can influence people that the discussion can take us down many different roads. Interestingly though, most people don’t usually discuss the environmental theory in too much detail as it usually brings out the worse of a family environment.
We usually move on to the psychological theory which people seem to enjoy talking about above all the other theories. Almost everyone was once a “psychology major.” When the following statement is read: “The psychological theory states that ‘The practice of an addiction temporarily reduces stress’, newly recovering people usually unanimously say “DUH” and family members look a little confused and state something like, “Isn’t that a little too simple.” Picturing a group of psychology professors sitting around for hours and coming up with such a simple theory seems absurd, but those who have suffered addiction get it. Using substances did initially reduce stress. Unfortunately by the time someone gets to treatment it has become something more that stress relief, it is a way of living which just isn’t working anymore.
The spiritual theory describes Addiction as being born and thrives in an environment of spiritual bankruptcy. Many faces change with this conversation and look confused, but usually they begin to identify and talk about their loss of faith because of tragedy and how it caused them to abuse substances. Another person relates and a family member recalls someone who had no spirituality and developed an addiction etc. So there we are again, having reviewed the four theories about addiction and what do we really know.
The simplest answer could be:
Addiction can be treated and arrested regardless of how we believe it began. A person can live a productive lifestyle by practicing recovery principles and recovery behaviors in all aspects of their daily living.