Drug addiction is a complex disease that causes serious effects on a person’s physical and mental health. Even though people experiment with drugs or alcohol, no one sets out to be an addict. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol are habit-forming and it doesn’t take much for some people to become addicted.
So how does a person become addicted? The answer isn’t simple. No single factor determines whether a person will become an addict. But there are certain risk factors that can raise the risk for developing a substance use disorder. Knowing what these risk factors are and how to protect yourself against them can lower your chances for addiction.
Drug Abuse Typically Starts During Adolescence
Research shows that drug or alcohol use usually begins in adolescence. There are several reasons for this. First, the parts of the brain responsible for judgement, self control and future planning are not fully developed until adulthood. This means that the teen brain is wired to take risks and experiment. Trying new things is a part of growing and maturing, and unfortunately, drugs and alcohol are sometimes a part of that process.
Another reason why drug use often starts during the teen years is because peer influence is at its strongest. Friends might say “everyone’s doing it,” influencing others to experiment as well. The teenage brain isn’t thinking about the long-term consequences of making such a decision. Instead, they want to fit in and be accepted by their peers.
Risk Factors for Drug or Alcohol Addiction
It’s important to know that the risk factors for addiction simply increase the chances for developing a substance use disorder – they do not mean that you will become an addict. And if you don’t have any risk factors, you might get a false sense of security. Addiction does not discriminate and can happen to anyone regardless of their background, education or income level.
Here are the main risk factors for drug or alcohol abuse.
Your biology plays a role in your risk for experimentation and becoming addicted. These include the following:
- Genetics. Genes are believed to contribute to 40-60 percent of your addiction risk. This is why you may have heard the saying that “addiction runs in families.”
- Mental illness. Mental health disorders put you at a greater risk for addiction because you’re more likely to self-medicate to numb your emotions.
- Developmental stage. The earlier you start using drugs, the more likely you are to become dependent on them. Teens’ brains are especially at risk because they are still maturing.
- Sensitivity to drugs. People have different sensitivities to drugs and alcohol. Your body may react strongly and crave substances more often.
- Gender. Drugs and alcohol affect the bodies of men and women differently. At one time, addiction was more common in men, but this gap is now closing.
Environmental factors refer to your surroundings and influences. Obviously, what you see and are exposed to will impact the habits you develop.
- Home and family. Teens who live in chaotic homes with little adult supervision are more likely to develop an addiction than those coming from nurturing, structured households.
- Availability of substances. Having drugs or alcohol available to you in school, at home or in the community influences your risk for addiction. The easier you can get these substances, the harder it is to stay away from them.
- Trauma. Going through traumatic experiences like abuse or neglect creates stress and raises the risk for self-medication.
- Peer influence. If you have a lot of friends who use drugs or alcohol, you’re more likely to use them yourself.
- Poverty. Poverty is linked to stress, and this creates opportunities for people to self-medicate. If you watch your parents do this, you’re going to learn to cope in the same way.
Protecting Yourself from Substance Abuse
Staying away from drugs or alcohol is not always easy, especially if you live in a high-stress, high-chaos home. But if you know that you are at a higher risk for substance abuse issues, you’ll want to build a healthy life and utilize the protective factors available to you.
The best ways to protect yourself from substance abuse are:
- Stay busy. Pursue the passions and hobbies you enjoy. Set short-term goals to occupy and motivate you. You don’t need to be busy every minute of every day, but do avoid boredom.
- Avoid stress. Stress is a normal part of life but it must still be managed because it’s a risk factor for addiction. Mindfulness, meditation, exercise and yoga are all good ways to relieve stress.
- End toxic relationships. Remove all negative influences and surround yourself with positivity. Invest your time into healthy relationships instead.
- Practice positive self-talk. Be kind to yourself. You are going through a difficult journey but you are doing it. Believe in yourself and your ability to stay sober.
- Lean on your support system. As you build your support circle, rely on them to get you through your days. Peer support is linked to better recovery rates.
- Eliminate triggers. Where possible, remove triggers from your life. Triggers can be smells, sounds, sights, people, etc., so you’ll need to identify them and remove them.
- Help others. When you invest your time and energy into others, you feel better about yourself. Volunteer in your community – there are plenty of opportunities for helping people and pets!
Start Your Recovery Today
You don’t have to look far to start your recovery. Acceptance Recovery Center in Scottsdale, AZ offers extended care substance abuse treatment. We have a number of therapies that we utilize to help our clients move past their roadblocks to recovery. To learn more about our programs and how they can help you get clean for good, contact our drug rehab in Scottsdale today.