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The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 23.1 million Americans aged 12 years or older have a significant problem with alcohol or drugs.
One of the phrases getting tossed around a lot lately is “addictive personality.”

Whether talking about one’s inability to step away from chocolate or discussing an article about a celebrity who cannot kick his or her alcohol or drug habit – many of us are using this phrase.  We may ask ourselves, “Am I one who has an addictive personality?”  The basic idea is that, while most people can have one cocktail, purchase just one lottery ticket, or “experiment” with drugs, without becoming hooked; those with a certain personality type are hard-wired to drop into a hole of addiction with their first sip, smoke or bite.

When most people hear the word “addiction,” they automatically think of dependence on a substance, such as drugs or alcohol. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 23.1 million Americans aged 12 years or older have a significant problem with alcohol or drugs.  However, addictions are not necessarily limited to drugs or alcohol.  Behavioral addictions — to shopping, sex, even email or TV– trigger the same rush of feel-good dopamine to the brain as drugs and alcohol.  Some may feel an addiction to food, while others get their addictive “high” from gambling.

There is actually no psychiatric diagnosis of “addictive personality.”  Due to the complexities of personalities, there is not one specific type that is more prone to addiction than others.  However, there are several factors that, when combined, may make one more likely than another to become addicted.  Although research is ongoing, it has been proven over and over that there may actually be a genetic component for addiction in one’s genes.  By studying twins, as well as children who were born to addicted parents but then adopted by non-addicted families, researchers have found that genes are proving responsible for half of one’s likelihood for becoming addicted.

However, it is also recognized that genes alone are not enough.  Even if one comes from a family with a long history of addiction, this does not mean that addiction is a surety.  Other factors, including one’s friends, education, social support and environment when growing up can all play a part in whether one defaults to addiction.  If one is not exposed to a particular substance; no addictive behaviors will be exhibited towards that substance.  Therefore, if a parent has a predisposition for alcohol addiction, yet the child is never exposed; they will not necessarily search out alcohol through an addictive need.

Recognizing patterns in your household may help to determine if a member of your family needs help with an addiction problem.  Recognizing a substance abuse or chemical addiction and seeking professional help may be a life-saving decision.

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