What is my risk of addiction? The answer is layered and fairly complex. There are many variables involved in what makes a person more or less likely to become addicted to a substance. Some people, in general, are at a much higher risk than others due to the circumstances of their life, many out of their control. It is important to understand risk factors to have a better picture of addiction and to see how these risk factors may be reduced. Let’s consider the different elements that might contribute to an addiction.
First of all, there is drug availability. If the person lives in an area where drugs are readily available, it’s more likely that they will try them. Peers who use drugs might also be considered as a risk factor, especially in adolescence, where the person might not be directly pressured into using drugs, but may want to try it out to belong.
Family history of addiction is a significant risk factor. It is believed that addiction has a genetic component, increasing the likelihood that relatives of a person with addiction could develop this disorder. Even if the person is not genetically predisposed, having an addicted parent or close relative could influence their perception of substance use and teach a pattern that can be repeated in younger family members.
Men are more likely to develop an addiction than women. However, this doesn’t mean that women don’t experience this problem, as some data suggests that addictions tend to progress faster in women and that they might do more damage.
Trouble at home and absent parents also are risk factors, especially for young people. Parental absence or emotional unavialability can make someone turn to substances to feel better or as a temporary solution to their problems. A lack of guidance might also be a factor in choosing to use drugs. Another possible reason for why this is a risk factor is that parental abandonment and an abusive or neglectful household can be related to self-destructive behavior.
Loneliness and a lack of deep relationships with peers can also play a role in addiction. The person might use drugs as a way to fit in with a certain group or as a way to cope with feeling rejected and outcast.
Anxiety and depression are issues that might lead to heavy drug use, as the person might use substances to feel euphoric or to reduce their negative emotions. However, many drugs lead to a heightened anxiety or depression at some point, so the person might try to use more to recapture the feeling of pleasure. So, anxiety or depression can lead to drug use, which might in turn worsen the symptoms, leading the person to seek more substances. This can become a vicious circle.
Other mental health disorders can also increase the likelihood of developing an addiction. For instance, young people with ADHD are several times more likely to become addicted than their peers who don’t have ADHD. Bipolar disorder, especially the manic episodes can also lead to this problem, as the person might not not have the judgment to decide not to use. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is another common issue co-occurring together with addiction, as people with this disorder might turn to substances to cope with their situation.
Poverty and education are other important factors. A person who lives in poverty and who does not have an education that will allow them to work or the chances to get an education is more likely to turn to substance abuse due to what is seen as an unescapable situation.
An important risk factor is the age of first use. Teenagers who start using drugs are at a higher risk for addiction and for experiencing more negative effects due to the substances than adults. Why is this? Teenagers still have a developing brain and the influence of the substances affects this development, for the worst.
A good example of this is the use of marijuana. Few adults who use marijuana get addicted to it, however, there are two circumstances in which the risk for addiction increases significantly – when the person uses it daily or when the person starts using it as an adolescent.
A risk factor can be the nature of a substance. There are some drugs which are more addictive than others and some that have a faster effect on the brian. For instance, cocaine is much more addictive than alcohol. There are also people for whom a single taste of a drug can spark a full-blown addiction.
Abuse and other traumatic experiences have also been linked to higher rates of addiction. A person that has been deeply hurt might be prone to self-destructive behaviors or turn to substances in order to cope with the experience. Young people who have been abused also might not feel like they can trust their parents or turn to peer groups for acceptance, even when those peer groups promote unhealthy behavior.
These factors do not occur separately, but often interact. For instance, an adolescent from a neglectful household who lives in poverty is less likely to receive or be able to access a good education and may be more likely to have fewer options to choose peers from and higher chances of a peer group that supports drug abuse. They may also start using drugs earlier and turn to heavier drugs, especially if those are made avialable in their community. In short, many risk factors appear together and increase the risk even more, so that an individual might have many thing stacked against them.
Risk of Addiction / Texas Recovery Support / Houston, Texas