California State University, Northridge

Drug Addiction

By David Allen Deans
(spring 1997)


There are many people and organizations in our culture who are trying very hard to make sure that Drug Addiction is NOT seen as a disease or as the result of genetic or biological predisposition. These people have a strong personal and social interest in an entirely nonphysiological model of addictive human behavior. Their perspective of social problems is based primarily on a philosophical orientation with a social perspective, heralding socio-political correctness as its goal.

Throughout history, a great many people and institutions have tried to help alcoholics and addicts. Currently, there are thousands of different programs in the United States trying to help those people who have a social or personal problem with drugs or alcohol. Yet, the success rate for these programs is extraordinarily low considering the effort and investment made.

There are countless reasons why these programs are not working, however the main reason is yet to be realized. Existing programs are not working because they're based on false assumptions of philosophy and human nature. They do not address the motivations and emotions of addictions.

Today, drug treatment and rehabilitation centers are typically operating on the belief that social or philosophical factors are causing the addictive behavior, and that if we could change an addict's belief system, or his social support structure we could end his addictive behavior. And yet, the success an individual attains, typically doesn't last as long as the treatment. This superficial view comes from our governmental and religious orientations which maintain that addiction is the result of bad personal choices, weak character, and anti-social or irreligious behaviors.

These are not useless perspectives in our attempts to improve the human condition. However, in solving the pervasive problems which have deep roots in our human motivations and emotions, we must see that socially based perspectives have little to offer. People do not destroy their families, careers, and love relationships, because they choose to, or because of their friends. They do not desire financial ruin, loss of self respect, being assaulted, or spending long and frequent periods of time incarcerated, just because its their chosen lifestyle. These are blind and ignorant attitudes.

It is apparent that a motivation, or physiological drive stronger than our conscious concerns is at work fueling our addictive behaviors. Addiction means giving up conscious control. It is impulsive, unconscious behavior. As it is said in Alcoholics (or narcotics) anonymous, addicts are people who have lost all control of their lives, as well as their substance use and abuse. These people have tried many different times to stop using these substances, for their own personal, financial, or social reasons, and yet they couldn't. They were able to stop for short periods, or curb use for longer periods, but true abstinence over an extended period of time is somewhat rare among true addictive personalities. Also, addiction is a progressive disease.

Twelve step programs learned 60 years ago what governmental, social, and religious institutions still refuse to accept. Most addicts will not stop using until they hit bottom, believing that they may not survive unless they get help. Grateful alcoholics and addicts are those lucky enough to survive long enough to have a sudden, radical, change in orientation, a kind of spiritual awakening. Here the individual comes to believe that he can no longer trust his conscious ability to direct his own behavior. He finally does what he could never do before, he admits defeat. Beaten down to his knees, he asks god for help, (even if he thought himself an atheist, or agnostic,) and finally turns to others. Twelve steppers say "Our best thinking is what got us here. It became necessary to lead a life of humility."

Addiction the only mental disorder that convinces the afflicted that its everyone else who is ill, not himself. This is because of addictive denial. This is not a conscious act. In the grateful addict's new reality, he realizes that this denial is the unconscious mind's ability to completely block an addict's conscious awareness of the nature of his addictive behavior, and personality, replacing it with vivid misconceptions, created to support the addictive behavior. Positive emotions and motivations are perverted, denied, or extinguished, An individual eventually becomes almost zombie-like, and running on automatic, very unlike his former self.

Freud himself had tried to treat advanced alcoholics and had come to believe that they were hopeless, beyond treatment. However, he had heard of some having recovered after a spiritual or religious experience. He believed these instances to be miracles.

What really happens is that the weight of unconscious motivations become inclined to stop the addictive behaviors rather than continue. After survival or another very deep unconscious drive becomes the most primary concern, the addict has what twelve steppers call, a moment of clarity, which is a strong enough for change in conscious orientation. Some people believe that this is because conscious concerns and social pressures bring about a new choice in behavior. Actually, unconscious motivations save us from a threat which our denial had consciously hidden.

Intellectuals are often good examples of some who are highly educated, well intentioned, and respected individuals, typically successful in their own careers, while teaching and counseling others. Yet, they have absolutely no idea what is going on within peoples hearts and minds.

Sociologists and religious adherents are often, such intellectuals. Thus, they are unable to help addicts because of their lack of wisdom and practical experience pertaining to our basic emotional and motivational nature. The real psychological basis of drug addiction has an intrinsic nature, and it is an intrinsic motivation which drives the addictive personality. There are many cultural factors and environmental or social influences which are closely related to addictive behaviors, yet when given the same social, economic, and environmental factors, one person becomes an addict, while others who are equally influenced become abstainers, or more commonly, will experiment with drugs but never have substance abuse problems or become addicts. This is the kind of awareness which ethical pontifications and statistical social research will never be able to uncover. They are looking in the wrong place, and from the wrong perspective. You could say that they are on solid ground, but chasing a wild goose, and barking up the wrong tree.

Drug Distinctions

Sociologists, religious adherents, and government agents see addictive behavior as being criminal or sinful. These kinds of social judgments do little to help the addict, yet, they do cause harm, making the addict feel shameful, weak, or helpless. Suddenly he feels like a child who wets the bed, or cant control his impulse to explore, and then is shamed or punished. Trying to demand or force a behavior which is in direct conflict with the natural drives and motivations of the individual is dangerous.

It will usually worsen his situation, potentially driving the addict to suicide, or overdose. But for the lucky ones, and those who are strong enough, this kind of malpractice will only lead the addict to psychological misery, self loathing, and submission.

However, if we can't stop the treatment handicap of misdirected and harmful philosophies, we can improve our treatment success by having each different addiction well distinguished, and then approached individually. Very few programs help the individual find a better life after cleaning up, and even fewer address the needs met by the drug before addiction. These rewards are emotional and motivational in nature, usually unconscious.

Counselors and others in the field of service today, assume that we are driven by social or philosophical goals, but this is because they don't quite understand that our most powerful, important, and influential human drives are within the mid or lower brain functions, mostly unconscious, and seldom more than moderately tempered by the higher cortical functions. But it is in the rational, higher cortical world that sociology and philosophy operate.

That is why when social psychologists or counselors try to help addicts deal with addictive motivations it's like the blind, leading the blind. Of course the counselors, and social psychologists still get paid.

What was the nature of the original motivation and emotional reward of the drug before it became addictive ? The reason that this point is so critically important is because treating drug addiction is next to impossible unless the motivation and reward for the first repeated use is identified. Sometimes we can modify the addictive behavior by presenting an alternate kind of reward for behaving differently, but usually we must find a non-addictive behavior which attains the same reward or a motivationally preferred combination.

Those who are addicted to multiple substances, are especially difficult to treat. Dual addiction is commonly referred to as addiction to two addictive substances. Clinically, however, it also refers to addicts who also have a mental illness. Multiple and dual addictions are especially difficult to treat because addicts may sidestep crises by switching to a legal addictive substance for a short time. Legal drugs such as nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, acetylcholine or any one of a thousand prescription drugs, easily available through doctors who are unaware of an addict's history, often allow an exponential increase in addictive behavior, denial, and other psychological disorder. Drugs used to treat mental disorders may worsen an addiction. Many people treated for mental sickness are only substance abusers, and vise-versa. Our neuroendocrine axis can't discern legal from illegal drugs, and often doctors can make addiction worse with prescriptions of pain medications, anti-depressants, muscle relaxers, and many others.

Making treatment even more difficult is the fact that an addict may switch to a kind of psychological addiction which is combined with one of these socially acceptable drugs. An addict in an highly addictive spin cycle, may use prozac, herbs or tobacco, while becoming psychologically addicted to danger, sex, work, television, or other compulsive behaviors. Although most social agencies welcome such shifts in behavior, the cycle of addiction will continue to worsen, while sublimated.

We must know whether the addict has found a way of life which meets his emotional and motivational needs, and whether or not the cycle of addiction has ceased. If he has only sublimated his addiction in some other form, then it will probably resurface at some later date with a more ravenous expression of addiction or an even less attractive form of psychosis, depression, or criminal behavior. This side-step dance only prolongs the addict's psychological crisis and will cost society more eventually, with chronic health or incarceration expenses.

Therefore, each addictive substance, and dual forms of addiction, must be looked at and treated differently. And each addict's individual situation and history is of primary importance in his treatment plan. We could well begin by treating addiction differently, for each type or class of substance is psychologically different. Each has a different type of emotional and motivational reward and different neural or hormonal action.

Marijuana is wrongly placed in the governments #1 classification. And is often mistakenly grouped with hallucinogenics. It is best described as a sedative hypnotic. Many people believe that misinformation regarding this natural substance is one reason why so many people of recent generations do not believe religious or governmental sources of information. Governmental credibility was lost to an entire generation because of this mistake. Ironically social advances in the investigative actions of the press and public, and the basic changes in government and corporate accountability may be directly related to the propaganda and misinformation which was exposed as such.

Many natural popular substances such as marijuana and cocaine were unrestricted legal substances until the FDA Act of 1927. This socially revolutionary and highly restrictive law closely proceeded the stock market crash of 1929, an economic product of this act. Louisiana Governor Huey Long had a great deal to do with this Law, and subsequently made over hundreds of millions of American dollars (tens of billions of inflation-adjusted dollars) by running the 'Black Market Drug Trade' through ports of Louisiana.

Amphetamines and cocaine have no real physical addiction in the biological sense. They act on the individual like tobacco by increasing our neural activity, endurance and stamina. The effects of cocaine and nicotine last a very short time and become very addictive, psychologically. The brain is well motivated to continue this stimulation, but the uninterrupted use of these drugs tends to lead to serious social and psychological problems which include psychosis and violent behaviors.

Amphetamines were used in this country as diet pills for many years before being banned by the FDA. Cocaine is native to the mountains of South America where it is chewed by the indigenous people who carry their agricultural products to market on foot over steep terrain. The cocaine plant is a perfect source of high non-caloric energy for extended endurance and stamina. If the natural plant is chewed and the stomach is allowed to regulate absorption, the side affects of heavy use of the processed version used by addicts, do not materialize.

Opiates, are a highly addictive set of drugs which include opium, morphine, and heroin. All of these drugs come from the same plant, the opium poppy. In the Orient, opium is usually smoked as a powder or pulp which is derived easily from the poppy seeds. Morphine is a much more potent synthesis of the poppy seed which was developed as a pain medication by the military so that people who had severe injuries might be comforted.

Heroin is the still finer derivative, a drug now used around the world for its euphoric and calming effects. Heroin is highly addictive and has a very painful physical withdrawal syndrome, making it hard to quit. Studying the opiates affect on the brain led to important discoveries in the natural process of pain control and our sense of well being.

Hallucinogenics are different in the sense that they seem to produce effects similar to psychotic episodes. They work on areas of the brain related more specifically to perception and symbolic reasoning. These drugs include hundreds of naturally occurring substances and include plants of many species. Cacti, mushrooms, and wild herbs which are the most commonly known. Hallucinogenics have been used by mankind in most cultures since before written history, usually for religious or medical purposes. However, they are taboo in many religions and most modern governments.

Many synthetic drugs are also hallucinagenic such as LSD-25, which was developed by the American military. Timothy Leary became a symbol in the 1960's after advocating the use of LSD to increase psychological awareness. Today's non-hallucinogenic version, LSD-10, is potentially lethal due to added strychnine. Hallucinogenics such as peyote, LSD-25 or natural mescaline, induce hours of vivid affects and can increase self-awareness.

The Biomedical Model

Scientific Investigation in recent decades has given us a much improved understanding of the true physiological basis of addiction. Research and technology have increased awareness of addiction processes work, with advanced achievement in the discovery and the mapping of neurotransmitters and hormones which strongly affect our feelings and inclinations. These new aspects of endocrine and nervous system function are key to the increased understanding of addiction. They have major roles in perception, cognition, and expression. But more importantly, they regulate and determine moods, emotions and motivations. Here is where addiction resides!

Scientific method is used by cultural and sociological investigators. Here, it is not the method of investigation but the underlying assumptions on the basis of addiction which lead the research astray. Is pre-addictive drug use a product of social and environmental factors, or is it an attempt at well being, given certain states which can exist in the brain and endocrine system.

We are beginning to realize that the study of specific aspects of our psychological nature which have an inherent emotional or motivational basis, are not well served by examining the superficial kinds of social relationships which may well prove to show statistical significance but have absolutely no causal relationship. On the other hand, improved understanding the biomedical processes of the nervous and endocrine systems may give us insight into the types of persons who are predisposed to addiction or substance abuse - not because of social stereotypes but because of true individual differences which are keys to unlocking the mysteries of motivationally based behaviors which seem to contradict rational goals and socially advantageous behaviors.

In the biomedical model we look not to the social stereotypes too often reinforced by social psychologists, but to actual physiological processes. We examine temperature and blood pressure, of our skin to touch, or eyes to light. We might evaluate reaction times, standing balance, our ability to hear, speak, and comprehend. Physiological states and personal responses can be judged as sympathetic and parasympathetic arousal and relaxation.

Drug abuse is powered by motivational and emotional aspects of our nature. These aspects of personality or character are quite analogous to a vehicle's engine. If you're trying to understand what is wrong with the engine of a vehicle, it doesn't help to know what color the vehicle is, if its been in the sun, or even the drivers intended destination. What really helps is to know the nature of the engine, and how it operates. What really makes it run? We can kick the wheels and hit the battery terminal with a wrench. We can wiggle wires and check the oil stick. Yet these efforts seldom help. Just as judging, shaming, and punishing addicts seldom helps.

In the final analysis, the most important physiological relationship for consideration in psychology, is the mutual relationship of the central nervous and endocrine systems. Neurotransmitters and hormones direct all things motivational and emotional in human conscious and unconscious experience.

Neuro-endocrine Action

The specific character of each drug is best seen in the actions of the central nervous system and the endocrine system. The actions of these two systems also well defines human psychological and behavioral processes. The neurotransmitters of the brain and the hormones of the endocrine system control and direct our perceptions, cognitions, and expressions. They regulate our physical and mental processes, and our natural rhythm cycles, such as activity and rest, eating and digestion, exploration and survival - as well as all other human states or moods.

Our motivational drives and emotional responses are really analogous to the interactive relationship that exists between the central nervous system and the endocrine system. The mutual needs of these biological partners defines our motivational drive and is expressed in our emotional responses.

Therefore, it seems logical that any change in these systems after drug exposure, or chronic use, might give us the clues we need to understand the motivations leading to experimentation, and the effects of addiction on future motivation. This could also be true for emotional expression and response.

Amphetamines, Cocaine, and nicotine are the three common drugs which actually increase the natural neurotransmitter Dopamine in the brain. These drugs are considered stimulants. The problem with this otherwise advantageous effect is that when dopamine is released beyond natural homeostatic protection of the endocrine system, the body is not allowed to sleep or rest. The brain needs to go through its normal cycle of conscious states. If it becomes forced by continuous stimulants to bypass the states achieved during rest and sleep, the brain will force the issue. When this happens, the individual will begin to have waking dreams, a state almost identical to psychosis. Unconscious and extremely violent behavior is often exhibited.

Opiates have neurotransmitter like substances which fit very well into certain neuroreceptor sites. These receptor sites were discovered through the action of opiates, even before discovery of the natural substance meant for these receptors. Finally, endorphins, such as encephalin, were identified as a primary natural substance which helps us cope with pain and critical stress. Actually, the endorphins our bodies produce are very much like opiates. They can create euphoric like states and are now being identified as the "natural opiates". Endorphins can be produced within our body by those behaviors closely related to the flight or fight syndrome. At the first sign of danger our body will start producing endorphins.

Before our body really needs pain reducing substances, our body begins producing them in anticipation of possible future pain, such as when we're about to give birth, in preparation for a fight or escape, after jumping out of an airplane before the parachute opens, when we believe we are about to be stung, when we jealously imagine another person with our mate, etc. These are all instances when our endocrine system prepares us for high stress or danger.

One of the interesting things about these processes is that they show a fairly clear example of a perception immediately affecting a hormonal state rather than the typical slower process. Whereas, our hormonal moods or homeostatic states generally determine the brains focus and affect its cognition. This may be a product of recently discovered shortcuts from the brain to the hypothalamus which are apparently adaptive improvements over older slower systems which are incited as a result of endocrine information. This might be a look into an adaptive improvement in our evolution, which defines an increasing role for the higher and midbrain function helping to bring about more immediate hormonal responses.

Homeostatic Theory

For quite some time we have been aware of the fact that hormones and neurotransmitters which have primary roles in the action of addiction and other compulsive behaviors, are the same ones which play central roles in homeostasis. The homeostatic process directs and is directed by the central nervous system. Homeostasis produces and is a product of the brains neural action. Arousal and rest, hunger or thirst and satiation, excitement and calm, stimulation and depression, these are all regulated by our nervous and endocrine systems.

All forms of sickness, disease, and mental disorder can be defined in some way by an imbalance or dysfunction within this homeostatic relationship. We are not at all surprised that this is also true of addiction and substance abuse. There is a great deal of research being done in the area of the relationship between our addictions and homeostasis. We have known for some time that when food or drugs are ingested, they affect the body's natural homeostasis. This process is seen in the endocrine system, which has tide like movements, defining the natural homeostatic balance of arousal and rest. Drugs affect the cycle of this relationship by causing an increase or decrease in neural and hormonal action or suppression. Substances in foods and drugs may block, increase, or mimic the actions of one or more natural neurotransmitters in the brain and may be able to change the homeostatic relationships within us. This affects our moods, and emotions and motivations, as well as our basic perceptive, cognitive, and expressive processes. Each drug, or combination of drugs will cause a different kind of affect on these systems. Food, danger, and bee stings also bring about a change in homeostatic balance affecting our hormonal and neural activity. So do yoga, exercise, and processed sugar, as well as sex, fighting, and heights. Any of these substances produce their own unique potential for physical or psychological addiction or habituation.

Caffeine has little affect on the brain, mainly increasing oxygen by dilating arteries and increasing blood flow and pressure, while marijuana reorients perceptions, mainly affecting the basil ganglia in the lower brain, having a sedative affect while lowering blood pressure. Tobacco actually increases natural dopamine neurotransmitters, while opiates mimic natural endorphins. Individuals may have very different homeostatic reactions to an equal amount of a drug, while addicts are soon unable to return to achieve a drug state similar to what they had experienced during initial uses.

Current theories on drug addiction suggest that an addict loses his balanced state of homeostasis by the drug use, and that he may or may not regain his previous homeostatic balance after a long period of abstention, possibly many times the length of his addictive behavior. I have a different understanding of the relationship between the addict and his addiction, to the state of homeostasis: I theorize that those people who are predisposed to drug addiction, or who have an addictive personality, are in a content state of homeostatic imbalance before being exposed to drugs.

At the onset of the drug experience the drugs help them in achieving homeostasis by exciting or depressing the neuroendocrine action. Thus, the drugs actually help an individual, who is constantly in a state of homeostatic imbalance, achieve homeostasis for a limited period of time (before tolerance and addiction deny this affect). Mostly unconscious motivations drive us to increase the behavior and achieve this previously inexperienced state of homeostasis. Quickly one is conditioned to increase affective use of the substance, while at the same time tolerance begins to make homeostasis more difficult, and illusive.

Once tolerance has been firmly established, the drugs begin to fail achieving homeostasis, but classical conditioning has already made repeated behavior likely. Avoiding symptoms of withdrawal becomes the new goal. As the tolerance increases so does the physical discomfort of the bodies withdrawal symptoms. This increases the motivation for a repeating the addictive behavior, and further establishes psychological denial. The conditioning continues to increase the addictive behavior until the drug is only serving our desire to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms.

A return to state of a relatively balanced state of homeostasis, which was what addict's early motivation is no longer possible. This guarantees that feelings of failure, hopelessness, and extended depression, or anger, resentment, and violent expressions will soon follow. The addict has begun to realize he can no longer control his behaviors or emotions. Now he can only find fault in himself and others, and only fantasy supports his ego, and need for self efficacy. Now a new drug or behavior is needed to help him in his struggle and to avoid the downward spiral. And a new drug may help by the addict some time, but the progression begins anew from a more advanced state and with a faster and more dangerous cycle of expression.

Cyclic substance abuse, physiological addiction, and psychological habituation can only be conquered by understanding and improving the homeostatic balance and the motivational rewards of an individual. We can hopefully do this by helping the neural and hormonal processes of the body function optimally. But if I am right and addicts best balance is an imbalance we must improve our medical treatments and redouble our new clinical applications for "the quickening" in society will not slow down and the demands on our mental faculties will surely increase.

Medical and clinical treatments using the medical model must learn to support and improve the bodies natural homeostatic need and ability to achieve balance, possibly with improved nutritional awareness and medical improvements, and advancing discoveries in food and drug actions.

Psychologists must expand on, not yet mainstream therapies, which share a goal of physiological balance between systems. As fragmentation of medicine has vastly improved aspects of specialist medicine, the more basic and important concerns of general well being and preventative medicine have been ignored.

Clinical psychologists should emphasize established applications which have homeostatic balance, overall psychological, or mental and physical health, as goals. Psychologists must show that the health and well being of our communities would be well served by counselors and educations who promote self awareness and preventative health behaviors.

Alternative therapies should be advanced in clinical treatment of addiction, such as biofeedback, exercise, relaxation techniques, acupuncture, and herbal medicine. We must help clients avoid synthetics, unnecessary food additives, environmental stress and pollution whenever possible. The 60's and 70's were correct in trying to help us return to a holistic form of health care in counseling and medicine.

To ensure more success in the treatment of addicts and alcoholics, we must educate clients and counselors about the real basis of addiction, and help them to take an active role in helping themselves toward an awareness of their unconscious motivational drives, so they can be redirected in positive ways. The days of a personal style that simply avoids stress are over. We must find methods other than pill popping and drinking ourselves into a state of unconsciousness, for confronting the demands of social pressure, stress, and oppression. We must learn to establish strength and self-efficacy, we must express (not depress) our feelings and expressions. We must learn to love the light, and life, by opening our hearts and minds.

Infant Attachment Theory and Addictive Personality

If there is a social-environmental element to the basis of addictive personality, or a predisposition for addictive behavior, it is best explained not by teen peers, or socioeconomic factors, not by race or education, but by our personal orientation to life. This aspect of our character is well established long before we complete our early childhood development. It is now accepted that we have minds of our own well before we are born. Our basic character and life orientation is established between 24 weeks and 24 months of age.

It would be incorrect to say that there is not a social element involved in our earliest developmental processes. Social interactions begin to influence our development even before we're born. Still, this developmental process which is constructed with hormonal and physiological determinants, is defined by the stimulation of the mother and child bonding relationship.

The health behaviors of the mother, her motivation and interest, and competence at parenting, combine with genetic and hormonal factors in the prenatal development of the fetus. In the first six weeks after birth, an infant actually elicits behaviors in the mother which are necessary for survival and optimal development. The mother's response to the baby's cries, his distress with discomfort, his need for nourishment and tactile stimulation are all very important in the process of the infant's brain development.

His cognitive and emotional orientation is dependent on stimulations which trigger and define the child's capacity for development. The majority of neural development happens in the weeks and months that surround the birth event, stimulation must be challenging but not excessive. Within seven to eleven months after birth, an individual's cognitive and emotional capacities are established. By the age of 12 to 24 months his motivational, interpersonal, and communicative styles are defined.

Infants need specific stimulation before birth. Sounds, movements, emotional states of the mother, and other sensations help to development the child's capacities. Crying, rooting, smiling, and other behaviors of the infant are well designed to illicit the necessary responses in the mother after birth. Touch and other tactile stimulation, vocalizations, rocking or other movements, and eye contact with the mother are absolutely necessary for the reinforcement of the motivational and emotional drives which are innate in the child at birth, but will disappear in the child if not encouraged by the mothers responsive parenting behaviors. These help the child to establish very basic principles of awareness and perception. The infants relationship with his mother during these first six weeks will strongly influence his future cognitive abilities, his intellectual strengths and weaknesses.

After six weeks the child begins a more active role in his own early development. He focuses on shapes and faces, emotions and personalities. The nature of the mother and child relationship at this stage of infant development, will determine many characteristics of the child, including his own personal attitude, life perspectives and ego orientations.

The prenatal and birth adjustment stages of attachment are fundamentally the most important to the actual neural development of the infant, but the following stages of relational attachments, and comprehensive or object attachments, may be more influential in terms of interpersonal and social, or ethical development. During all these stages of infant development, the mother-child relational attachment serves as a cognitive and emotional focal point for all other experience to follow throughout the life span.

If the attachment is lacking or insecure at any of the early developmental stages, perceptive, cognitive and expressive abilities will be adversely affected. However most aspects of attachment can be established much later than is typical, and caregivers other than the mother can supply most attachment needs, with the possible exception of the hormonal aspects of bonding after birth which depend on breast feeding and the infant's recognition of the mother based on pre-natal perceptions.

Infant Attachment types are generally seen as having three general orientations. Secure Infant Attachment, Avoidant Infant Attachment, and Ambivalent Infant Attachment. There are variations on this theme but at the present time these are the generally accepted theoretical constructs. Secure attachment is the product of a mother who is responsive, accessible and consistent. She regularly expresses predictable and sensitive feelings or expression toward the infant. Over 60% of all infants seem to be securely attached. Avoidance attachment is the product of a mother who is unresponsive, demanding, over-stimulating, and abrupt. She typically expresses impatience and seems unaware of an infants needs and behavioral cues. About 22 % of infants seem to be avoidant in their attachment style. Ambivalent attachment is the product of a mother who in unpredictable and inconsistent to the extreme. She may be very sensitive and loving one minute and hysterical or frantic the next. She will go from very encouraging to highly disapproving in the same breath. Only about 17% of infants are categorized as having an ambivalent attachment style.

Attachment style has been attributed more many adult relationship characteristics. Love relationship styles, divorce adjustment, dating and sexual behaviors, have all been compared to attachment style. However, I have found nothing in the psychological research literature that has made the connection between attachment type and behaviors related to alcohol and drug use. I theorize that infant attachment styles may be related to addictive behavior in later life and that attachment theory defines and predicts the addictive predisposition. Experimental and abstaining behaviors, relating to drugs and alcohol may also be determined by attachment.

Ambivalently attached individuals, need direction and consistency in life, they choose authoritative psychological constructs. They usually have partners or a personal style based on security and consistency. Being raised ambivalently, they are apt to join religious or law enforcement agencies. They will generally abstain from drug and alcohol use and will very seldom go beyond legal or moderate use of illegal or addictive substances. Ambivalently attached infants, become adults who are strongly motivated to maintain control in life and drug use does not fit this scenario.

Most of us were securely attached as infants. We were comfortable exploring, but maintained a strong base around mother. These infants have a balanced understanding of exploration within safe and secure boundaries. In terms of drug and alcohol use, these securely attached people probably represent experimenters and social drinkers. They do not share an adamant fervor, for or against alcohol and drugs. They have a practical approach to issues of substance abuse. They generally believe that alcohol and drugs are an individual choice and responsibility. They don't understand prohibitionists or addicts. The idea that an addict has lost his ability to control his behavior once it has demonstrated unsocial or dangerous aspects, is not in the securely attached individuals psychological experience.

It's the Avoidantly Attached infant who may be highly susceptible to drug and alcohol addiction. His anti-social and anti-authoritarian view is a clear representation of his defensive attitude toward social expectations, and pressures. His aggression is an answer to social restriction and oppression that he perceives as a threat to his individuality and well being. These characteristics are precisely analogous to the orientation that the evidently attached infant must construct to defend himself against over stimulation or social obstacles. The addict may chose to use a substance to overwhelm or avoid these social restrictions.

Web Resources

Social, religious, and Governmental

Drug Distinctions

Biomedical Model

Neuro-endocrine Action

Homeostatic Theory

Infant Attachment