What Are Risk Factors For Addiction?

There is no one single factor that can predict if a person will become addicted to drugs. It is a combination of factors that influences a person’s risk for addiction. And the more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that using drugs could lead to addiction. 

An individual’s environment includes many different influences such as:

  • Family and friends
  • Economic situation
  • Peer pressure
  • Physical and sexual abuse
  • Early exposure to drugs
  • Stress
  • Parental guidance
  • General quality of life

Nature Vs. Nurture

The argument of nature vs. nurture is appropriate concerning addiction as well as other issues. A genetic tendency is possible although it has not been determined once and for all. But still, people wonder “Is addiction genetic or environmental?” The environment we are raised in and continue to thrive in has a huge effect on mental and physical well-being and for that reason, is one of the risk factors for addiction.

If drug use is common in the household, a person may become numb to it or to normalize it. If children witness positive results of drug use (euphoria, partying, enjoyment, etc.) they begin to understand that using drugs leads to happiness. Naturally, they will want to repeat this behavior.

Coincidentally, if children witness the negative effects of drug use (abuse, unemployment, ruined relationships), it might cause them to become anxious or depressed and turn to drugs to ease their symptoms and because they are readily available

How Does The Environment Influence Addiction?

The Family And Friends

Drug addiction in a family comes from 3 factors:

  1. The effect of unhealthy families on the behavior of young people
  2. Easy access to drugs
  3. The influence of groups of people the same age

Parental Alcohol And Drug Abuse

The abuse of drugs and alcohol by parents during childhood can result in the abuse of drugs and alcohol during adulthood. Parents who drink alcohol are four times more likely to have children who are alcohol dependent later in life. The parent’s influence in substance abuse involvement rubs off on the child because they grew up in a household where substance use was regular and not a big deal.

In a study of 559 people, results proved the direct interdependence between the condition of the family and the extent of drug use. The study revealed that drug addicts mainly come from incomplete and unhealthy families. Furthermore:

  • Addicts come from families where there is hostility
  • Drug addicts have weaker family ties than those who don’t use drugs
  • Mother had most of the authority in families where drugs were used
  • Alcohol was also used in almost half of the families where drugs were used

Availability Of Drugs Or Alcohol

Research has been clear that the availability of addictive substances in an individual’s home, school, or community is one of the risk factors for a person to develop a drug or alcohol use problem. As an example, the abuse of prescription drugs, which has been rising for the last several years, is happening at the same time as a marked rise in medical prescriptions. The increased availability, along with a lack of understanding about the dangers of prescription drug misuse, affects the risk of addiction.


Stress, and especially early exposure to stress, is tied to early substance use and later drug or alcohol addiction. Stressors such as: 

  • physical or sexual abuse, 
  • witnessing violence, 
  • poverty, and 
  • chaotic lifestyles may contribute to the risk for addiction.

Influence Of Peers

Associating with peers who take part in risky behaviors like drug use is another key risk factor for addiction. This is especially true for teens. Choosing friends who don’t abuse substances can help protect a person from substance abuse and addiction.

Economic Status: Wealth Vs Poverty

Economic status is defined as the level where an individual is based on income. There are three different levels of economic status:

Upper Class

The upper-class economic status makes up just 1 to 3% of American society and owns more than 25% of the country’s total income.

Middle Class

The middle class is typically white-collar employees who earn more than those in lower spots on the income pyramid, but less than those in higher positions.

Lower Class

This economic status is characterized by poverty, homelessness, and unemployment. Issues that this class faces include:

  • Medical care
  • Sufficient food and housing 
  • Proper clothing 
  • Safety and vocational training

A lot of the risk factors for alcohol and drug abuse are more common in families with a low economic status. Approximately 20% of people who receive welfare in the U.S. admitted to using illegal drugs in the previous year. 

In addition, a person who earns less than $20,000 per year has a one-third lower chance of recovering from cocaine abuse than a person who earns more than $70,000 per year. And even the place of employment determines economic status and affects drug abuse likelihood. In a study, 23% of unemployed people had tried cocaine a minimum of one time, nearly 15% of part-time workers, and 19% of full-time workers.

Substance abuse and homelessness often occur together. According to figures from 2003, 38% of homeless people were addicted to alcohol and 26% were opioid addicts. On the flip side, substance abuse is often the cause of homelessness. Despite this, many people who are homeless turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with their problems and emotions.

Does Poverty Cause Addiction?

The actual amount of money you have or the economic level you belong to has a low impact on your potential for addiction. These ideas come because drug abuse is more common among individuals who live in poverty or have a lower economic status. However, poverty does not directly cause addiction.

Substance abuse is a natural result of the lifestyles of people on the lower level of economic status. This indirect relationship is usually spread through several underlying factors instead of a single cause. 

For example, a mother who is staying in-state housing with her children may unconsciously pass on the habit of burying her pain and sorrow in alcohol every day. This is a product of both environmental and genetic factors. Many risk factors that may lead people to addiction and abuse are more common in households on the lower end of economic status than on the higher end.

What Are The Genetic Risk Factors For Addiction?

The comparative importance of the above factors varies across the lifespan and at different stages of addiction. Peer influences and family environment are the most important for exposure and initial pattern of use. But genetic factors and mental health play a more significant part in the transition to problem substance use.

The genes that people are born with cause about half of an individual’s addiction risk. In addition: 

  • Gender
  • Ethnicity and having other mental disorders present may also influence the risk for drug use and addiction

Interaction With Mental Development

Genetic and environmental factors affect each other during critical developmental stages in a person’s life to affect the risk of addiction. While taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier it begins, the more likely it will proceed to addiction. This is especially a problem for teens. The areas in their brains that control decision-making, judgment, and self-control are still developing. Therefore, teens may be particularly likely to try risky behaviors including trying drugs.

Is Addiction Genetic?

Certain genes that are involved in susceptibility to addictions include both genes that are susceptible to specific substances and genes that act on common brain pathways involved in addiction to different substances and a leaning toward psychiatric disorders. However, there are few genetic predictors available and they only account for a small part of the genetic differences in being the cause.

Addictive disorders are complex conditions that come from multiple genetic and environmental risk factors. The measure of how well the differences in people’s genes account for differences in their traits is called “heritability.” Heritability estimates range from 0 to 1. The heritability estimates for addictions range between 0.4 for hallucinogens and 0.7 for cocaine. 

Still, at this early stage of gene studies for addiction have only been applied to small addiction samples. It is estimated that more than 95% of the genetic variance is still not accounted for which shows that most of the genetic risk factors haven’t been discovered yet.

What Are The Stages Of Addiction?

Addiction often plays out in stages. Your body and brain’s reactions in the early stages of addiction are different from the reactions during the later stages. The four stages of addiction are:

  1. Experimentation: Uses substances out of curiosity
  2. Social or Regular User: Engages in substance use in social situations or for social reasons. This individual is still functioning with an addiction. They still have their job and their relationships.
  3. Problem or Risky Use: Uses or engages extremely with no regard for consequences. In this stage, their life is starting to suffer because of their addiction. You don’t have to experience major losses to have an addiction.
  4. Dependence: Engages in the behavior daily or several times per day despite the possible and probable negative consequences. In the late stage, they have lost their job and are a non-functioning addict.

Consequences Of Addiction

The consequences of addiction get worse as time goes on. Addiction is a progressive disease that is never easy to quit. But if you or someone you care about has already suffered some negative consequences, the time to quit is now. The most important consequences of addiction are social, emotional, and sychological risk factors. 

Most people tend to think of the physical and economic consequences. They may believe that they don’t have a serious problem because they still have their job and their health is fine. But those are very late-stage consequences.

Work is usually the last thing to suffer. Work is necessary to pay bills so they can continue their addiction. When work begins to suffer, they have slipped from being a functioning addict to a non-functioning addict. 

The damage done to self-esteem and relationships is much deeper and takes longer to restore. Friends and family have been hurt. Self-respect is gone. Important things in life have been traded for more time to use and the disappointment shows in their children’s eyes. Those should be the consequences that motivate a person to begin recovery.

Don’t Lose it All

You don’t have to hit rock bottom to benefit from substance abuse treatment. People benefit all the time when they have been sent to rehab by the legal system, a medical condition, an ultimatum from a partner, or an intervention by caring friends and family. You don’t have to lose everything before you repair your life and relationships. 

Little Creek Lodge in the beautiful mountains of eastern Pennsylvania is specifically prepared to help adult men achieve their recovery goals. We offer 30, 60, and 90-day residential programs along with different levels of outpatient treatment because the longer you engage in the treatment, the better your chances of life-long sobriety. Little Creek has professional addiction specialists who will work with you to design a program specifically for you. We have so much to offer, contact us today and find out what we can do for you.






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