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Risk Factors for Addiction

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Risk Factors Increase the Odds

Addiction is a chronic brain disease. It can happen to anyone regardless of social status, background, gender, race, or beliefs. Even so, some specific risk factors increase a person’s chance of developing a substance use disorder. The more risk factors an individual has or is exposed to, the more likely they will abuse or become addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Although the chances of developing addiction increase with risk factors, it is important to keep in mind that having one or more addiction risk factors does not mean an individual will become addicted.

Here are seven addiction risk factors research has identified.

Genetics & Family History

Approximately half of an individual’s chances of developing an addiction to alcohol or drugs are influenced by genetic factors. It is common to see addiction develop in those who have family members who struggle with substance use disorders. Genetic factors cannot be changed. However, being aware of a family history of addiction may help people make different decisions regarding their use of alcohol or drugs.


In addition to genetics, a person’s environment can raise their risk of addiction. Children and teens who experience neglect or abuse from parents or caretakers are at risk of using drugs or alcohol to cope with their emotions. Lack of parental involvement in the lives of children or teens can result in experimentation or risk-taking activities involving substances. Another environmental risk factor for addiction is peer pressure. Substances may be used as a result of experimenting with friends or aggressive pressure from others. If substances are available in a person’s social group, the person runs a higher risk of becoming addicted.

A Pre-Existing Mental Health Condition

When a person suffers from a mental health condition, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, or anxiety, they have a greater risk of developing a substance addiction. Addiction occurs because many people with mental health issues use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with the emotions, anxieties, and stress caused by these disorders. If an addiction develops with the existing mental health condition, it is called a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis.

The Age Substance Use Began

The younger a person is when they begin using drugs or alcohol, the greater the chance of addiction. Children and teens who use substances are more likely to become addicted. Several additional factors may also increase the chance of addiction in teens:

  • Moving from middle school to high school, moving from one high school to another, moving out of the home to college
  • The desire to fit in or try something new
  • Lack of good decision-making skills and self-control
  • Lack of parental supervision at home

Early substance use also affects individual brain development, making a person more likely to develop other mental health disorders when they get older.

Drug of Choice

Certain addictions progress rapidly, while others move slowly and develop over several months or years. For example, addictions to heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines tend to develop more quickly than addiction to marijuana or alcohol. This could be because heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine withdrawal are more physically painful than the others. When a person begins to come down from them, the pain makes them use the drug again. As the person uses it more often, they need higher doses to prevent withdrawal symptoms from occurring.

Method of Drug Delivery

The method a person uses to take the drugs increases their risk of addiction. Swallowing drugs is less addictive than smoking or injecting them. When a person injects or smokes drugs, they bypass the liver and other filtering organs. Substances go directly into their bloodstream and brain.


A person’s metabolism can affect their risk of developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Metabolism is how a person’s body absorbs and processes different compounds. It affects how the substance will affect the body and the resulting sensations it produces. Metabolisms vary from one person to another and can result in how long the effects of the drug last.

Do You Need Help?

If you or a loved one struggles with addiction to drugs or alcohol, help is available. You are not alone. At Canyon Vista Recovery Center, located in Mesa, Arizona, our staff of highly skilled, caring professionals will use a combination of psychiatric care, evidence-based addiction treatments, and holistic therapies to help you find the path to recovery. Take the first step and call us today.

Considering inpatient treatment in Arizona? Learn more about programs offered at Canyon Vista Recovery Center. Contact us at (888) 979-1840

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