Despite popular belief, addiction does not happen overnight. It occurs gradually, but can be accelerated by various factors. Just like any other disease, people who experience or who are exposed to certain behaviors are more likely to experiment with drugs like heroin and/or alcohol and can potentially spiral into addiction. However, it’s important to understand what the risk factors are, so that people can make the right decisions and take the proper steps to prevent substance abuse.
Who Is Susceptible To Risk Factors For Addiction?
Additionally, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. As a result, certain risk factors that might make someone more vulnerable to substance abuse might not be an issue for someone else. These risk factors have been compiled by researchers who have found them to be helpful in determining someone’s risk of substance abuse, but these factors do not guarantee that someone will develop a problem. They are used to broaden awareness and ensure that the community is informed.
The following list outlines the various factors that can increase a person’s risk of drug and/or alcohol abuse:
Genetics: A person’s risk of developing a substance abuse problem is not only related to their environment and interaction with family members. According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD), genetics is tied to a family history of substance abuse. Some people genes make them more susceptible to the effects of drugs and alcohol. This can increase their risk of substance abuse and can even make it harder for them to stop. However, just because a person has a genetic predisposition to substance abuse, this does not guarantee that they will develop a problem.
Household: In addition to the genetic component, exposure to parents or family members who abuse drugs and alcohol can increase a person’s risk of developing a problem. This is especially critical in a household with young children. If exposed to parents or older siblings with substance abuse problems, children are at higher risk of developing their own substance abuse problems later in life.
Peer Pressure: Young adults are more likely to be affected by peer pressure from classmates and friends to engage in risky behavior, such as experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol. In an effort to “fit in” and appear mature, children with relatively no risk factors may be coerced to try drugs and alcohol.
Adolescence: Young adults are not only susceptible to the allure of drugs and alcohol because of their curious and adventurous nature. Traumatic experiences, such as physical and sexual abuse, in combination with early exposure can motivate young adults to escape their reality with drugs and alcohol. Moreover, the region of the brain that controls a person’s ability to evaluate circumstances, make informed choices, and manage feelings is underdeveloped in children. Researchers believe that the effects of drugs on the area, called the pre-frontal cortex, maybe responsible for children’s continued substance abuse later into adulthood.
Do These Risk Factors Always Lead To An Addiction?
It’s important to remember that although these risk factors increase a person’s chances of developing a substance abuse problem, it does not guarantee that it will happen. Ultimately, the best way to counteract these risk factors is preventative education. Learn what risk factors affect you and, if you can, find strategies to implement in your daily life that can help decrease your risk of developing a substance abuse problem.
For more information, visit the National Institute of Drug Abuse and the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence websites.