There are several books which can provide insights to help a person overcome an addictive personality.
The Addictive Personality: Understanding the Addictive Process and Compulsive Behavior by Craig Nakken
Willpower's Not Enough: Understanding and Recovering from Addictions of Every Kind by Arnold Washton, et al
Addiction and Grace by Gerald G. May (Paperback)
The Heart of Addiction: A New Approach to Understanding and Managing Alcoholism and Other Addictive Behaviors by Lance M., M.D. Dodes (Paperback)
Life's Too Short!: Pull the Plug on Self-Defeating Behavior and Turn on the Power of Self-Esteem by Abraham J., MD Twerski (Paperback)
Research (late 2008) from Vanderbilt finds that those individuals labeled as novelty seekers by psychologists, face an uphill battle due to the way their brains process dopamine. The research reveals that novelty seekers have less of a particular type of dopamine receptor, which may lead them to seek out novel and exciting experiences - such as spending lavishly, taking risks and partying like there's no tomorrow.
The neurotransmitter dopamine is produced by a select group of cells in the brain. These dopamine-producing cells have receptors called autoreceptors that help limit dopamine release when these cells are stimulated.
"We've found that the density of these dopamine autoreceptors is inversely related to an individual's interest in and desire for novel experiences," David Zald, associate professor of psychology and lead author of the study, said. "The fewer available dopamine autoreceptors an individual has, the less they are able to regulate how much dopamine is released when these cells are engaged. Because of this, novelty and other potentially rewarding experiences that normally induce dopamine release will produce greater dopamine release in these individuals."
Dopamine has long been known to play an important role in how we experience rewards from a variety of natural sources, including food and sex, as well as from drugs such as cocaine and amphetamine. Previous research has shown that individuals differ in both their number of dopamine receptors and the amount of dopamine they produce, and that these differences may play a critical role in addiction. Zald and his colleagues set out to explore the connection between dopamine receptors and the novelty-seeking personality trait.
"Novelty-seeking personality traits are a major risk factor for the development of drug abuse and other unsafe behaviors," Zald and his colleagues wrote. "Our research suggests that in high novelty-seeking individuals, the brain is less able to regulate dopamine, and this may lead these individuals to be particularly responsive to novel and rewarding situations that normally induce dopamine release," Zald said.
Previous research in rodents showed that some respond differently to novel environments. Those who explore novel environments more are also more likely to self-administer cocaine when given the chance. Dopamine neurons fire at a higher rate in these novelty-responsive rodents, and the animals also have weak autoreceptor control of their dopamine neurons. Zald and colleagues speculated that the same relationships would be seen in humans.
The researchers used positron emission topography to view the levels of dopamine receptors in 34 healthy humans who had taken a questionnaire that measured the novelty-seeking personality trait. The questionnaire measured things such as an individual's preference for and response to novelty, decision-making speed, a person's readiness to freely spend money, and the extent to which a person is spontaneous and unconstrained by rules and regulations. The higher the score, the more likely the person was to be a novelty seeker.
The researchers found that those that scored higher on the novelty-seeking scale had decreased dopamine autoreceptor availability compared to the subjects that scored lower. [Dec. 31, 2008, in the Journal of Neuroscience]
However, a genetic risk factor that increases the likelihood that youth will engage in substance use can be neutralized by high levels of involved and supportive parenting, according to a new University of Georgia study.
"The study, published in the February, 2009 issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, is the first to examine a group of youth over time to see how a genetic risk factor interacts with a child's environment to influence behavior.
"We found that involved and supportive parenting can completely override the effects of a genetic risk for substance abuse," says study co-author Gene Brody, Regents Professor in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences. "It's a very encouraging finding that shows the power of parenting."
Among youth with the genetic risk factor, those who received low levels of involved and supportive parenting increased their substance use at rate three times higher than youth with high levels of parental support. Among youth with high levels of involved and supportive parenting, the difference in substance abuse was negligible - regardless of genetic risk.
"In families that were characterized by strong relationships between children and their parents, the effect of the genetic risk was essentially zero," said Beach, who is also a Distinguished Research Professor in the psychology department of the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "With this study and previous studies looking at environmental risk factors such as poverty, we're finding that in many cases the best way to help children is to help families become more resilient."
Involved and supportive parenting is a very powerful tool, and Brody said it's relatively simple to implement. Some examples include regularly spending time with your child, communicating with them so that you can gauge how they're doing, providing emotional support and helping them with their material and day-to-day needs such as homework.
"We all carry around genetic risks," said Brody, who also directs the UGA Center for Family Research, a unit of the IBR, "but fortunately very few people are impacted by those risks because their environment protects them."