It's NOT Genetics
that Cause Addiction
In his book, "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts", Dr. Gabor Mate asserts that ALL people suffering addiction endured childhood trauma.
It is important to note here that not all children who suffered abuse become addicts.
But, according to Dr. Mate, all addicts suffered childhood abuse.
How it really works:
Dr. Gabor Mate asserts that the brain of addicts are essentially "deformed" by childhood trauma.
More specifically, circuits that enable learning from mistakes, and impulse inhibition are not formed correctly. Additionally, childhood trauma, in many cases, reduces the amount of Dopamine and Serotonin receptors. These are Neurotransmitters that are absolutely required for any hint of motivation, follow through, and happiness.
The ability to say no to our impulses is literally and physically damaged during childhood trauma.
Think of impulse control as a gate that closes kind of like a garage door, and prevents acting on impulses that everyone has from time to time.
i.e.. If you are hungry and your co-worker's desk has their lunch in plain view, you will likely inhibit the urge to help yourself, at least without asking.
You have the thought, but the gate closes on that thought thereby inhibiting your action.
In an addict, this gate is very damaged, therefore their ability to inhibit such an impulse is severely reduced.
A Mouse Without Dopamine:
A lab created/bred a mouse and “disabled” the dopamine mechanism. The mouse was immobile. When the researchers put food in the mouth of the mouse, it ate and swallowed the food. When the food was put 3 feet away from the mouse, it perished. The mouse did not have the motivation to move 3 feet to eat.
How This Damage is Caused in Humans:
After birth, an infant’s brain is processing, creating and connecting neurological networks at dizzying speed, sometimes up to a billion connections per second.
Trauma during this time of critical development physically alters the circuit development, neural pathway development, and many times inhibits development of dopamine and serotonin receptors. This in turn reduces dopamine and serotonin levels in the child, who will always struggle with the various negative effects.
Our Interactions, Experiences and Observations in the environment are huge determining factors for which brain circuits and neural networks are formed, strengthened, and programmed into the subconscious. Bad experiences = bad programming.
As of now, there is no specific gene likely to cause addiction. In fact Dr. Mate calls addiction a "normal reaction to abnormal circumstances". He states that addiction is an attempt to self-medicate the missing brain hormones like dopamine, and’or an attempt to relieve the ever-present pain addicts experience.
He also states that no one is predisposed to pain, and there is no pain gene.
The relatively new science of epigenetics shows that it's the interactions, experiences and observations within our environment that determine which of our genes are read and which genes are not.
For example, it's possible to have the (most likely to cause) Alzheimer's Gene, apolipoprotien E (APOE) and, with a healthy environment, not manifest the disease.
Again, there is no specific gene likely to cause addiction.
Addiction in Families:
Addiction that runs in families is explained by the re-living/re-enacting of same or similar scenarios trauma's and behaviors as programmed during the impressionable childhood.years. The trauma’s that are replayed by each generation may evolve some, but are strikingly similar overall. Hence the assumption of genetic causation.(Stay tuned for the upcoming article on the power of the subconscious to fully grasp the power of childhood subconscious programming.)
The Power of the Environment:
Consider this example: If you bring home a newborn child that has medically normal vision, and then keep that child in a dark room for two years, that child will be blind for the rest of his life.
There isn’t a single step in the 12-steps that will recover his sight. It is important to note, his blindness is not genetic, He did not create his blindness, and his children won’t be born with a propensity for blindness. But the same thing will happen to his children if he parents them as he was parented.
Similarly, abuse, neglect (perceived or real) in infancy can significantly alter formation of circuits, neural networks, formation of neurotransmitter receptors, and more.
Serotonin and dopamine receptors, specifically the D2 receptor is affected in those who grow up to become an addict.
What an abused child learns:
When do you think abuse is most likely to occur? When the child is crying. When does the child cry? When the child needs something. What happens to the child when he cries because he needs something? In an abusive household, the child experiences pain.
The result of the child experiencing pain in response to his needs, eventually results in that child denying or procrastinating in crying to meet those needs.
What has the child learned? Meeting my needs equals pain. Maybe I don't need to meet those needs.
Essentially, the abused infants pathways for pain are being reinforced heavily. So this child's entire body thinks that pain is the default setting and thus, subconsciously programs for that. The subconscious will always choose what is most familiar.
As if this weren't enough, reduction in dopamine receptors will affect the infant in the following areas:
1. Decision making
2 . Affect regulation
3. Ability to follow through
4. Ability to resist impulses
5. Ability to experience pleasure
8. Delayed Gratification
And much more
While genetics by themselves MAY predispose people to addictive tendencies, Genetics do not cause addiction, The environment does.