7 Common Risk Factors for Addiction

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According to the United States National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 48.7 million Americans had a substance use disorder in 2022. Given the prevalence of addiction, many people wonder if they could be at risk for developing the disorder themselves. 

While there is no single cause of addiction, a number of risk factors do exist. If you have some of them, this does not mean that you will develop a substance use disorder. Rather, you should be careful about engaging in substance use, such as by limiting social drinking and avoiding pain medication. 

Below are seven common risk factors for substance use. 

1. Family History 

Genes account for about half a person’s risk for addiction. If you have close relatives who struggle with substance use, you may be at an increased risk for the disease yourself. This is the case because a lot of the biological makeup of the brain is genetic. Specific genes may affect how you respond to certain substances, including your potential for dependence and the severity of withdrawal symptoms. 

2. Environmental Influences

The environment in which you were raised or currently live can significantly influence your risk of developing an addiction. You are at a higher risk for substance use if you were exposed to drugs or alcohol at a young age and/or have easy access to them. Additionally, living in stressful conditions, such as poverty or areas with high crime rates, can also contribute to the likelihood of addiction.

3. Early Use of Substances

The age at which you first use a substance is another critical factor. Early use of drugs or alcohol during the brain's developmental phase can lead to more severe addictions compared to those who start later in life. The developing brain is more vulnerable to the harmful effects of substances, which can alter its structure and function, making addiction more likely.

4. Mental Health Disorders

There is a strong link between mental health disorders and addiction. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can drive you toward substance use as a form of self-medication. Unfortunately, while substances might provide temporary relief, they can exacerbate the symptoms of mental health disorders over time. 

5. Social and Family Dynamics

The influence of family and social networks can either protect against or contribute to the risk of addiction. A supportive family environment can provide resilience, whereas dysfunctional family relationships can increase risk. Social isolation, lack of bonding or support within the family or peer groups can cause you to seek out alternative means of comfort and acceptance, often through substances.

6. Stress and Trauma

Exposure to stress and traumatic events, especially in early life, is a potent risk factor for addiction. If you experienced abuse, neglect or other forms of trauma, you may be at a higher risk of developing addictive behaviors. The use of substances can be a coping mechanism to deal with the emotional pain associated with these experiences.

7. Personality Traits

Certain personality traits are associated with a higher risk of addiction. Traits such as impulsivity, sensation-seeking and a disregard for conventional values and norms can predispose you to engage in risky behaviors, including substance use. Usually, these traits are inherited from your parents or developed in response to your environment. 

Getting Help for Addiction in Easton, PA

As you can see, there are many risk factors for addiction. However, just because you are considered at risk does not mean that you will develop an addiction and vice versa. Addiction does not discriminate, and it can affect anyone regardless of their background. That being said, if you know that you have these risk factors, you can exercise caution around substances and ensure that you have healthy ways to cope. 

Recovery Cove is an outpatient recovery center that treats mental health and substance use disorders. We treat all severities of addiction, allowing individuals to access help when they are ready. To learn more about our programs, contact our admissions team at 484-549-COVE