Anyone who uses alcohol or drugs runs the risk of developing an addiction. In some cases, occasional use can turn into severe dependency and addiction. Regardless of a person’s age, gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background, any person can be affected by substance abuse. But while it is possible for anyone who uses drugs or alcohol to develop dependencies, many people who do not develop addictions. Often, those who develop addictions are at increased risk due to predispositions and other addiction factors that can influence behavior. One or more of those factors does not guarantee a person will develop an addiction, but it does greatly increase the chances.
Risk Factors for Addiction
While risk factors may indicate a person is more likely to develop an addiction, it does not mean they necessarily will. Even those with no risk factors can develop dependencies on drugs or alcohol. Studies on how addiction manifests and evolves indicate that the following factors can put a person at heightened risk for addiction.
- Genetic predisposition: Addiction is most common among those who have a family history of addiction. Having a blood relative—such as a parent or grandparent—with a history of substance abuse and addiction puts someone at a higher risk for developing an addiction of their own.
- Presence of a mental health disorder: It is not uncommon for those who struggle with mental health disorders to develop dependencies on drugs or alcohol. Substances can often become methods of coping and self-medication for undiagnosed or untreated disorders. The combination of mental health disorders and substance abuse can often worsen the condition itself, causing a person to become more dependent on drugs or alcohol. This creates a cycle of abuse and dependency that can evolve into full-fledged addiction, creating additional physical and mental health problems.
- Environmental factors: Exposure to substance-using family members and peers can normalize abuse and make it easier to use. Pop culture also often plays a role in the normalization and glamorization of substance use that can influence a person’s feelings towards drug and alcohol use. Those with a history of trauma, including physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, are more likely to begin using drugs or alcohol as a means of coping. Additionally, those with little to no parental supervision and a lack of family ties are more likely to experiment with drugs or alcohol.
- Early exposure: Studies show that those who begin abusing drugs or alcohol early in life are more likely to develop addiction later on. This is largely due to the fact that the brain and body are undergoing critical developmental changes during adolescence and the introduction of mind and mood-altering substances can affect the way in which connections are formed and development proceeds. Depending on the substance used, abuse at this stage of life can lead to permanent changes in the way the brain functions and have life-long implications.
While not all of these addiction factors can necessarily be prevented, it is important to provide education and intervention early in life. Treating mental health disorders, providing resources to young adults, and educating adolescents about the risks of experimentation can significantly reduce the impact of these risk factors.
Not all addiction factors can be removed and some are beyond the control of an individual, but it is important to create more balance by adding more positive influences in a person’s life. Healthy relationships, positive coping mechanisms, and appropriate outlets for stress can all help reduce the influence of present factors. Experiences during childhood and adolescence have a great impact on the decisions many people make later in life.
By addressing these issues early on, younger generations are better equipped to handle the pressures and stressors that can influence addictive behaviors. Many of these factors can be combated by addressing areas of influence such as individual behaviors, parental involvement, academic resources, and community involvement.
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https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/preventing-drug-abuse-among-children-adolescents/chapter-1-risk-factors-protective-factors/what-are-risk-factors http://www.centeronaddiction.org/addiction/addiction-risk-factors http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/basics/risk-factors/con-20020970