Addiction: Nature vs. Nurture

In a recent article in Scientific American, Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at the National Institutes of Health, writes on the factors that cause addiction.  Dr. Volkow’s seminal work on brain scans helped reveal addiction as a brain disease.  In this early work she showed participants in an MRI, pictures of various substances and charted the brain’s reaction.  This work showed that people’s brains with a substance use disorder (SUD) reacted completely differently to their drug of choice than “normal” people. 

In her new article she takes on the issues of whether addiction is inherent (nature) or learned (nurture).  She notes “In fact, the dominant theoretical framework in addiction science today is the biopsychosocial framework, which recognizes the complex interactions between biology, behavior, and environment.”  She also notes that

…. the structure and function of the brain are shaped by environments and behaviors, as well as by genetics, hormones, age, and other biological factors. It is the complex interactions among these factors that underlie disorders like addiction as well as the ability to recover from them. Understanding the ways social and economic deprivation raise the risks for drug use and its consequences is central to prevention science and is a crucial part of the biopsychosocial framework; so is learning how to foster resilience through prevention interventions that foster more healthy family, school, and community environments.

At Gobi we have always felt that addiction was both a nature and a nurture issue.  There are some for whom the first taste of alcohol or pot creates an immediate craving, whereas for some of us we used until we eventually crossed a line where we couldn’t stop.  Our mobile app was created to help the “nurtures” by helping to interrupt the cycle and provide education and self- direction so kids can choose a healthier life style.