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How Can Timing Impact an Addiction?

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Besides nature versus nurture, there’s another variable that can significantly impact whether or not someone may develop an addiction: timing. Danielle Dick, an addiction researcher, says to TIME Magazine that youth and young adults who experiment with substances are at increased risk for developing a dependence on them. “‘This has to do somewhat with genetics but more so with the way a young person’s mind matures,” says Dick. “‘During adolescence, the parts of the brain that process reward are highly developed, which means adolescents like to engage in reward-seeking.’” However, other parts of the brain are not as mature. As such, the age at which a person first picks up substances can heavily determine their likelihood of becoming an addict. 

Long-term consequences

One part of the brain that isn’t as mature in adolescence is the prefrontal cortex, which helps a person ponder the long-term effects of their actions. Because of this, Dick says, “‘Adolescents have brains that are hardwired to get them in trouble.’” Adolescents are unable to see some of the consequences that may occur if they make certain decisions. “This means that the environments a young person ends up in — the friends who are there, the substances that are available there — really matter,” says Markham Heid, author of the TIME Magazine article.

Environmental factors versus genetics

Research has shown, Heid says, that among adolescent behavior, environmental factors matter more than genetics when it comes to addictions. This, however, does not hold true into adulthood. Once grown up, genetics tend to play a more significant role than environmental factors. These findings help further prove that it’s nature and nurture, not nature versus nurture. 


A further “complication,” says Heid, is what’s called epigenetics. Epigenetics “blurs the lines” between nature and nurture. “Just because you have genes that code for a trait, that doesn’t mean that trait will ever be expressed. The epigenome regulates whether the relevant genes get switched on or not — and experiences can play a role,” Heid explains. These experiences rely heavily on timing. If you are put in an environment that stimulates the reward system, you are more likely to develop an addiction than someone who was not put in that environment. Epigenetics can also be passed down from generation to generation, further proving the relation in nature. 

Arbor Behavioral Healthcare is here to help you regardless of what was more prominent in your life, nature or nurture. We help heal the whole person, focusing on nature and nurture. Call us today at 844-413-2690. We can’t wait to speak with you!