What factors contribute to substance abuse? Substance abuse involves a complex brain disease that is actually not that well understood. Science has only just begun to probe the mysteries of brain function, such as why some people become addicted and others don’t. Why do some people only become addicted to certain drugs and won’t touch others? Why is there the opiate addict who never, ever uses any other drugs of abuse, including alcohol and nicotine, even though both are freely available to any adult? Why is there the alcoholic who never does anything but drink, even when other drugs are available to them? No one has any real answers.
However, there are some known risk factors for substance abuse that make addiction in the individual more likely:
- Genetic factors
- Environmental factors
- Past trauma
- Mental health disorders
- Social factors, including loneliness and a lack of options
- Exposure to prescription drugs
Age is another risk factor. Teenagers exposed to addictive drugs for the first time are far more likely to become addicted to these drugs than adults are. This is due to the underdevelopment of the teenaged brain when compared to an adult one.
Teens are also strongly influenced by peer pressure, another risk factor for addiction more likely to affect young people.
Your inherited genetic makeup can influence your risk of addiction by as much as fifty percent. This tendency is at the genetic molecular level and demonstrates a clear genetic link from certain genes to the actual risk of addiction at some point. However, there is no such thing as an addict gene. Someone could well inherit certain genes linked to addiction, but other factors may mitigate this risk so the person never becomes addicted. It’s also possible that the person simply never becomes exposed to the possible addicting substance.
Overall, though, genes are definitely a powerful contributing factor.
Children growing up in homes where drug use is frequent and blatant have a higher risk of drug abuse and addiction when they reach their teens and early adulthood. This is by no means absolute, but environmental factors are a heavy hitter, accounting for as much as fifty percent of the total addiction risk.
Lack of options, including social factors such as poverty, joblessness, loneliness, lack of support from friends and family also fall under the environmental risk umbrella.
- Past trauma
Unresolved traumatic events from the past or present may contribute to substance abuse when the individual uses drugs to numb emotional pain. It’s too hard for them to face this pain, so they cover it up with drug abuse instead. Most drug treatment centers recognize and treat this source of drug addiction through special forms of therapy designed to reduce the impact from past traumatic events.
This special therapy gives the individual new tools to help them cope with trauma without resorting to substance abuse.
- Mental disorders
The incidence of mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder are yet another strong risk factor for addiction. People with these conditions may not even realize they have them. They only know they feel awful, and so they self-medicate with both illicit and licit drugs to feel better. This kind of self-medication only makes both the addiction and the mental disorder worse. Many drug treatment rehab centers now offer comprehensive dual-diagnosis substance abuse treatment for people with both mental disorders and substance abuse disorders.
Both conditions are treated, and when the symptoms from the mental disorder improve, it’s much easier to treat the substance abuse problem, too.
- Exposure to prescription drugs
Since no one can be sure what genes they may have inherited relative to the risk of addiction, it’s also not possible to know ahead of time if an individual will become addicted to a particular prescription drug legitimately prescribed to them for medical reasons.
This is particularly true for teenagers, whose undeveloped brains put them at a higher risk for addiction anyway. That said, it’s also true that most people prescribed a potentially addictive drug do not become addicted to it. However, if the person who does become addicted is you or a loved one, this statistic doesn’t mean much. While prescription medications, particularly strong opioids, should be prescribed with caution and probably withheld from teens unless absolutely necessary, they also should not be withheld from people with painful chronic conditions who really need them. Any
Questions? We can help you with any kind of drug abuse issue you may have, including helping you find a quality rehab near you. If you’re worried about substance abuse for you or a loved one, just call us at 614-705-0611. Our trained group of drug counselors are available 24 hours a day to assist you. Your call is confidential, and we look forward to speaking with you.