There are a number of factors that increase the likelihood that someone will develop an addiction at some point during their lifetime.
If you have one or more of these factors, it doesn’t mean that you will become an addict. It means that you are at an increased risk for developing a substance abuse disorder.
Common Risk Factors for Addiction
Family History of Addiction
If you have a family member who has a history of substance abuse, you are more likely to eventually have the same issue yourself. Studies conducted on twins have found that 40 percent of addictions to drugs and alcohol have a genetic component.
Men are more likely to become dependent on illicit drugs than females. They are also more likely to be heavy alcohol users (five or more drinks on a single occasion, for five days or more during the past 30 days) than women.
Type of Substance
Certain substances, such as crack, cocaine or heroin, tend to get users addicted more rapidly than others. Some users report that they are addicted after trying these types of drugs for the first time. Alcohol addictions generally take longer to develop, since it takes time (and regular drinking) for a tolerance to alcohol to build up.
Age of First Exposure to Addictive Substance
People who start drinking alcohol at a young age are more likely to become addicted during their lifetime than those to wait until adulthood. The longer someone is exposed to a substance, the more often they use it, and the more opportunities exist for an addiction to start. When early exposure is exacerbated by peer pressure (below), the risk factors for addiction multiply.
Some people will experiment with addictive substances because their friends are trying them and they want to feel accepted by their peers. While peer pressure is something that we usually associate with teens, the truth is that no one wants to feel left out if it seems as though the majority of their friends are involved in a particular activity. There is an unspoken pressure to conform, even if no one in the group says anything about the one person who doesn’t choose to participate.
Relationship with Family
A young person who grows up without developing a strong sense of attachment to their family members will be at higher risk of developing an addiction than someone who feels a close bond to their relatives. The attachment doesn’t necessarily have to be to a parent; it can be with a grandparent, stepparent or adoptive parent, aunt or uncle, or older sibling.
Living with a Mental Illness
Someone who has a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety or schizophrenia is more likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. It’s not uncommon for a person with a mental illness to self-medicate with chemicals to try to control their symptoms. In the case of someone with schizophrenia, they are more likely than the general population to smoke (and smoke heavily).
High Stress Levels
Someone who is experiencing a lot of stress may be looking for ways to comfort themselves that involve using chemicals. They may not have access to supports that can help them cope or know how to access help in the community to learn coping strategies.
If one or more of these risk factors for addiction apply to you, it doesn’t mean that you will definitely become addicted at some point during your lifetime. This is an instance where increased knowledge may help you avoid pitfalls that can open the door to a substance abuse problem. For questions or more information about drug and alcohol addiction treatment, Great Oaks Recovery is ready to help.