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•  Addiction can be affected by genetic predisposition, social environment and dopamine secretion

An addiction is a dependence on a substance or an activity which results in its repeated and compulsive use

  • Stopping is very difficult and can cause severe mental and physical reactions (withdrawal symptoms)
  • Addictions can be affected by genetic factors, social factors and dopamine secretion

Genetic Predisposition

  • Particular addictions can run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition (although social factors may contribute)
  • Specific genes might influence the rate of drug metabolism or intensity of drug effect (i.e. dopamine secretion)
  • Genetic factors may also contribute to personality types that are more inclined towards addictive behaviours
  • The genetic predisposition for a particular addiction may be determined by polygenic inheritance

Social Environment

  • Individuals raised in environments with prevalent substance abuse are at higher risk of addiction (peer pressure risks)
  • Individuals treated with neglect (child abuse) or suffering significant personal trauma are at a higher risk of addiction
  • Certain cultures have a higher incidence of addictions (may reflect demographic influences or marketing forces)
  • Low socioeconomic status (i.e. poverty) may increase the likelihood of addiction (poor education / lack of support networks)

Dopamine Secretion

  • Dopamine is a neurotransmitter released within the limbic system in response to reward (activates pleasure pathways)
  • Certain drugs (e.g. cocaine, heroin) and particular activities (e.g. sex, gambling) enhance dopamine activity
  • Long-term substance abuse will lead to the down-regulation of dopamine receptors, requiring higher doses to achieve effect
  • Consequently, addicts must continue to repeat the addictive activity in order to achieve a diminishing level of reward

Effect of Drug Addiction on Dopamine Activity