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Contrary to what many believe, people do not become addicted to substances overnight. Additionally, individuals do not need to have addiction “run” in the family for them to develop it themselves. While the circumstances behind each person’s addiction are unique, there are several common risk factors that can make individuals more vulnerable to substance use and addiction. Understanding what factors may increase one’s risk of developing an addiction can help individuals better prevent it in themselves and in others. 

#1 Co-occurring Disorders

One of the most common risk factors of addiction is the presence of a co-occurring mental health disorder. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that nearly “7.7 million adults have co-occurring mental and substance use disorders.” An underlying mental health condition is not always the primary cause of a developing substance use disorder (SUD); however, it can play a significant role. Additionally, it can be hard to determine what disorder developed first. 

Factors of Co-occurring Disorders

Sometimes, untreated mental health conditions can cause a person to turn to alcohol and other drugs in an attempt to self-medicate their symptoms. A person who is struggling with anxiety, for example, may try to mask the pain by using substances to cope. This type of self-medicating can be extremely dangerous, which is why it’s important that treatment programs work to treat co-occurring conditions simultaneously. 

To take it one step further, individuals who struggle with substance use may develop a mental health disorder as a result. This is because the same brain areas that are altered by substance use can make a person more susceptible to experiencing mental health problems.

#2 Genetic Predisposition

Another common risk factor for addiction is a predisposition from your family or genetic makeup. According to NIDA, “Family studies that include identical twins, fraternal twins, adoptees, and siblings suggest that as much as half of a person’s risk of becoming addicted to nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs depends on his or her genetic makeup.” 

The fact of the matter is, SUD is a disease that can have a huge effect on the family as a whole. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) notes that some people “have a genetic predisposition for developing mental and substance use disorders, and may be at greater risk based on environmental factors such as having grown up in a home affected by a family member’s mental health or history of substance use.”

#3 Drug of Choice

To understand the full extent of addiction, it is important to understand that the severity of SUD can vary based on one’s drug of choice. While the use of any substance, even in moderation, can lead to an increased risk of addiction, some are inevitably more addictive than others. Similarly, the frequency and intensity that one uses a substance can determine how severely one will develop an addiction. 

For example, although prescription opioids are incredibly effective in providing short-term pain relief, they are becoming increasingly abused. Opioid drugs alter the way that the brain responds to pain, causing individuals to seek out use repeatedly. Addiction to opioids develops once an individual can no longer control their use, whether or not they recognize the consequences of their drug use. According to a 2002 study in Science & Practice Perspectives, the main goal for individuals seeking recovery from opioid abuse “is in great part a struggle to overcome the effects of these changes.” 

#4 Low Sense of Self-Esteem

Having a low sense of self-esteem and self-acceptance can also increase one’s risk of addiction. There is no question that one’s sense of self greatly impacts one’s life. One study in Addiction & Health sought to determine whether or not self-esteem was a factor in a person’s tendency to addiction. According to the study, self-esteem “refers to our feelings about ourselves or the value we have for ourselves,” and self-esteem was found to have a “meaningful role in the individual’s tendency to addiction…” 

Low self-esteem can be caused by a number of factors, including the environment in which a person was raised. When an individual’s sense of self is low or absent, they are more vulnerable to turning to alcohol and other drugs to cope. 

#5 Environmental Factors

One of the most prominent risk factors of addiction comes from a person’s environment. There are a number of environmental factors that can increase one’s risk of developing an addiction, including, but not limited to:

  • Access to substance
  • Exposure to substance
  • Neighborhood and community disadvantages
  • Family history of substance use/abuse
  • Family history of mental health disorders
  • Environmental barriers to mental health treatment
  • Parental neglect
  • Parental involvement
  • Unemployment
  • Lack of social support
  • Associating with deviant peers
  • Unresolved trauma

Even further, differences in environmental factors like socioeconomic status and housing instability can impact an individual’s risk of substance use. It is important to understand that there are many other factors that can increase one’s risk of substance use and developing SUD. These just happen to be some of the most prominent factors.

When looking at the various factors of addiction, it’s easy to see how this disease truly knows no bounds. Still, it is essential to understand that treatment is available and recovery is possible. As more and more research confirms addiction to be the deadly disease that it is, more effective treatment options will become available to help individuals finally achieve long-lasting sobriety. 

Addiction is a disease that knows no bounds. Even though addiction can affect any person at any time, certain risk factors can help identify one’s individual risk of developing an addiction to alcohol and/or other drugs. Risk factors like co-occurring disorders, family/genetic predisposition, drug of choice, self-esteem, and environment can all contribute to why a person may be more likely to start using substances. In order to combat this deadly disease, quality treatment options need to be available. At Lighthouse Recovery Texas, our custom-built curriculum helps treat each person on a truly individualized basis. Through therapy, holistic programming, and clinical care, we utilize a comprehensive approach to treatment that will help you achieve long-term sobriety. Call us at (214) 396-0259.