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Addiction Risk Factors

Could you be at risk for addiction? Do you know someone who is at risk of drug addiction? Understanding the risk factors for drug abuse, addiction, substance abuse, and alcohol dependency can help you or someone you love determine how to avoid addiction.


A few startling statistics: around 10 percent of those who use or experiment with drugs become addicted. What determines addiction? There are four common types of risk factors that highly influence addiction: genetic, personality, drug type and environment.

Genetic risk factors are easily defined. Some families are just more likely to become addicted because of there combination of genes. One thing to be aware of is if you have family members who exhibit alcohol or drug addictions. If you find that this is the case, likely you are genetically disposed to drug or alcohol addiction.

Personality risk factors include those who have other psychological problems such as depression or post-traumatic disorders (as well as other disorders); these people can be more predisposed to turn to drug abuse. If you are prone to hot-tempered, that can also be a personality risk factor for addiction.

The type of drug or alcohol can lead to addiction. For example, heroin and cocaine are highly addictive. And of course, the more often the drug is used or abused, the more likely the person is to become addicted.

Environmental risk factors are more complicated. Here is break down of some of the more common environmental risk factors for addiction. 

  • Community: if your community has crime, easily accessible drugs and firearms, then the risk is higher. 
  • Peer pressure: one of the largest risk factors is having friends who use drugs and/or alcohol. 
  • Family: as mentioned above, if family members use drugs or alcohol then you are more likely to become addicted. Conflict within the family can also contribute to the risk.

Another risk for drug abuse is becoming dependent upon painkillers after a bout with a painful disease or injury. As people are weaned from the painkiller it can sometimes be very hard to go without the drug because of real or phantom pain. This can lead those who would never touch illegal drugs to start illegally procuring drugs to ease their pain. You should always obey your doctor’s orders and be honest in your appraisal of what you need to help you get over your pain and get away from the painkillers in a legal and healthy way.

In 2000 an estimated 3.6 million people were determined to be addicted to illegal drugs. Around 8.2 million people were estimated to be addicted to alcohol. With these staggering statistics, it is important to determine your risk factors and do what you need to do change them and avoid the trap of addiction.

Addiction Risk Factors Sources

  • Addiction Intervention Resources, “Adolescent Intervention,” [online].
  • All Refer Health, “Drug Abuse and Dependence, Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors,” [online].
  • Mayo Clinic, “Drug Addiction Risk Factors,” [online].
  • National Mental Health Association, “Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders,” [online].
  • University of Utah Genetic Science Learning Center, “Environmental Risk Factors for Addiction,” [online].

Related Article: Drug Abuse Prevention >>

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