Does Addiction Affect Successful People More Often than Those Who Lack Success?

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There are many factors that can intensify the possibility of someone becoming addicted to a dangerous drug, substance, or behavior. These factors can cause an individual to be more predetermined toward becoming an addict, but with the number of famous and successful people in the news who attend rehab, it is pertinent to ask if one of these factors may be success. Therefore, do successful people become addicted more often than those who lack success?

Risk Factors Associated with Addiction

To determine whether or not success is a possible risk factor that helps cause addiction in an individual, it is important to consider the well-known risk factors associated with the disorder. The most common risk factors include:

  • Aggressive behavior during childhood and adolescence
  • Community poverty
  • Availability of drugs and alcohol (either at home or school)
  • Poor social skills
  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Seeing substance abuse by close family members while growing up
  • Academic failure
  • Genetic factors (parents who were/are addicted to drugs and alcohol)
  • Having a mental disorder

These are the factors most commonly associated with drug abuse and, eventually, addiction. An individual who chooses to abuse drugs, either because they are available to them, because they want to feel good or feel better than usual, or because they are curious about the effects, will be more likely to become addicted to the drug’s effects if they have one or more of these +common risk factors. But how does success factor into this?

Other Factors Associated with Drug Abuse and Addiction

From these factors, it is difficult to say that prosperous people are more likely to abuse drugs or to become addicted to them. It may seem true that individuals who are denied success are more likely to abuse drugs and eventually become addicts. But there are some personality traits, according to David Linden, Ph.D., that successful people like CEOs share with addicts.

These factors include:

  • Risk-taking
  • A strong success drive
  • Dedication
  • Obsession
  • Novelty- or adventure-seeking

Linden believed the same brainwork used to strive for success is also used to abuse substances. Because these different personality types share so many of the same traits, it is very likely that a prosperous person may begin to abuse drugs and become addicted to them, rather than decide they want to quit. There is also a theory that many successful people also experience trauma at a young age that fuels their drive to become great; this is also a factor that affects many addicts.

Another factor that may cause certain individuals to abuse drugs is the desire to excel at work or school. People striving to achieve success may start using a substance to give themselves an “edge.”

Therefore, it can be considered that both factors associated with success and lack of success can cause an individual to abuse drugs and eventually become addicted to them. But who is more likely to do so: successful people or unsuccessful people?

Who is More Prone to Addiction?

Successful people and those who lack success can both be prone to addiction. For example, an adolescent who is failing academically or an adult who is struggling with work are both potential candidates for addiction if they begin abusing drugs and especially if they have other risk factors present. These individuals may begin abusing substances to compensate for their lack of direction or their personal feelings of failure, as these emotions can be overwhelming. But someone who is exceptionally driven also has a high-risk factor as well. The two sides of the spectrum both lend themselves to the possibility of addiction.

Because there have not been very many studies on the effects of a person’s prosperity on their likelihood of becoming addicted to a substance or behavior, it is difficult to know for certain whether the disorder affects successful people more often than those who lack success. But the people who are most likely to become addicted when they begin abusing substances are those who present other risk factors as well.

For example, mental illness can exist in both successful people and those without success. It can be a detriment for some, who feel that they cannot seek out the success they crave because of it and a driving factor for others who refuse to allow their difficulties to take them down. However, anyone who has a mental disorder is twice as likely to suffer from addiction than those who do not have a disorder of this type.

Extremes on both sides of the success spectrum can cause a person to be more likely to abuse and become addicted to drugs or other dangerous behaviors, but when an individual shows signs of several risk factors, either in their past or their present, it is important to consider the possibility that addiction may be likely to occur.

Addiction and Success: The Correlation

Linden’s research found that successful individuals are more likely to become addicts. This is partly based on the idea that addiction is a form of learning and that successful individuals are “if nothing else good learners”. There is a clear correlation between addiction and success that shows how many individuals who become successful or have high-achieving personalities are likely to be affected by addiction. All in all, it is important to always consider what factors may have led to a specific person’s abuse because, though it seems possible that successful people may be more likely to become addicted, still many individuals are trapped in a cycle of poverty and/or other factors that inhibit success but help to cause addiction.

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