While it’s widely recognized that those in the “C-suite” are ambitious and strong-minded, it’s also no surprise when they suffer from depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Mental illness and chemical dependency are often thought to be triggered by intense, work-related stress. But David Linden, Ph.D. and neuroscience professor at Johns Hopkins’ School of Medicine, argues that the traits responsible for making a CEO good at his or her job (dedication, risk-taking, obsession, an appetite for success) are the same traits shared by those with compulsive substance use tendencies.
“When you wonder what would make someone an addict, you might think, ‘if a person gets above-average pleasure from smoking or gambling, then they’d do it more.’ This is completely reasonable,” says Linden in a Forbes Magazine article. “But it’s completely, explicitly, 180 degrees wrong. The genetic variations that predispose a person to be an addict seem to be mutations that dampen the dopamine system.”
This means that while a “normal person” can go to a bar and enjoy a couple of drinks to relax, those with a higher addiction risk may need five times as many drinks to achieve the same effect. The high-risk individual might actually get less pleasure from drinking, but he or she is too driven to stop. “My strong, strong suspicion,” Linden says, “is that what makes some people more likely to rise to the top is the same thing that makes them more likely to be addicts.”
Beyond Genetics to Personal History
Genetics do play a major role in addiction risk, but other factors are also significant. Addiction researcher Constance Scharff, Ph.D., and her colleagues have found what they term a twin pathway in high achievers. “What makes someone achieve at that level – the top executives – is often stress or trauma that happened early on,” says Scarf.
According to Linden, this trauma may occur in early childhood or before birth. “If you’re abused and neglected as a child, you’re more likely to become an addict… Even if your mother has the flu while in utero, you’re more likely to become an addict.” Linden says this is due to a proliferation of stress hormones and their impact on the brain’s pathways and reward system.
If genetics and early life stress increase the potential for substance misuse among ambitious executives, it makes sense that C-suite members need specialized care to bring about personal, family, and career healing.
Help for C-Suite Addiction Clients at Coast to Coast
Coast to Coast Recovery Center’s programs for executives and licensed professionals help clients and families navigate the rigors of rehab while retaining their professional licensing and meeting occupational responsibilities. Our 5-star facilities offer drug intervention, comfortable drug and alcohol detox, and dual-diagnosis treatment programs that are customized to the high-pressure career path. Discerning clients: Begin the admissions process by dialing 800.210.8229 now or by inquiring online with our confidential form.