The Top 5 Risk Factors for Addiction

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Addiction can happen to anyone, from powerful executives to service industry workers, but some factors put people at higher risk. Whether someone is struggling with trauma or has a family history of addiction, it’s important for them to recognize that addiction looms larger for them — and luckily, there are things they can do to counteract those threats.

Our team at Roots Recovery cares about your health, both while in rehab and throughout your ongoing successful recovery. That’s why we want you to understand the top risk factors that lead to addiction, which you can learn more about and start to prepare for below.

1) Trauma

Trauma is an event or experience that can have lasting effects on your mental, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual wellbeing. Anything from domestic violence to the death of a loved one can create a memory that you simply can’t process. When you get stuck in a loop or cannot process the traumatic events that have happened to you, this may lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD triggers a physiological fight-or-flight response, which pushes some people to use drugs or alcohol as an attempt to self-medicate, mask their feelings, or make those memories manageable. This inevitably leads to a greater risk of addiction as it makes dependency much more likely.

2) Mental Illness

There are a wide range of mental illnesses, like anxiety, depression, and PTSD, that make it difficult to take complete control of your life. Some more debilitating symptoms, like paralyzing anxiety or deep sadness, can be temporarily alleviated by suppressing anxiety with alcohol or forcing ecstasy with drugs — but these stopgap solutions never truly help, and frequently only lead to addiction.

Studies show a strong correlation between mental illness and addiction, as roughly 50 percent of those with severe mental disorders are affected by substance abuse [1]. In addition, 37 percent of alcohol abusers and 53 percent of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness.

3) Environment

There are numerous relationships, living situations, and other environmental factors that can increase the likelihood of developing addiction. Growing up around others who abuse alcohol and drugs may normalize these behaviors long before adulthood. Living in an environment without much parental involvement or restriction can make it easier to access drugs and alcohol. And hyper-restrictive families can push people to use substances to rebel or lash out.

Peer pressure and popularity are also shown to increase the risk of adolescent substance abuse. When you believe that your inclusion within a group depends on substance, you’re more likely to use [2].

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4) Using Early

Although using substances at any age can lead to addiction, studies show people are more likely to develop substance abuse issues the earlier they begin to use drugs and alcohol [3]. Drugs and alcohol often have a stronger impact on a developing brain, but various social risk factors like peer pressure can also create a sense of normalcy that’s hard to overcome.

Younger users are also at greater risk because they may not have enough education or know better. Or, they see others using who seem fine, and think they’re invincible or “it won’t happen to me.”

5) Family History

Beyond environmental factors, family history and genetics can also impact someone’s risk of addiction. Drug and alcohol abuse can run in families based on your genetic makeup and the way your brain processes chemicals. They don’t necessarily depend on your parents’ use or sobriety.

While you will not automatically become addicted if a family member has previously struggled with addiction, your chances are much higher. Studies show as much as half of a person’s risk of becoming addicted to substances depends on their genetic makeup [4].

Managing Risk Factors at Roots Recovery

There are many reasons people develop addiction — and the rehab programming at Roots Recovery accounts for that. With our emphasis on individual counseling, managing dual diagnoses, and practical life skills development, our unique care and community can help you or a loved one manage these risks and triggers. We know recovery isn’t easy, but we’ll be with you into recovery and beyond.