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Anyone can fall victim to the chronic brain disease of addiction. The person’s race, social status, background, religion, financial position, gender, or beliefs do not matter. What makes one person more susceptible to drug or alcohol addiction than another? The answer is not cut and dried. However, certain risk factors can increase the chances of a person developing a substance addiction.
What is a Risk Factor?
A risk factor is a condition or characteristic that increases the chances of an individual developing a disease. Just because a person has one or more addiction risk factors does not mean they will develop a substance addiction. Everyone deals with life and its stressors differently. A risk factor for one person may not be a risk factor for another person.
Read on to learn about addiction risk factors identified by research.
Genetic Makeup and Family History of Substance Use Disorder
A person’s genetic makeup determines the individual’s mental functioning, physical features, and disease risk. The information found in the body’s cells is passed on to children from their parents. Researchers are able to identify genes that cause certain diseases, such as breast cancer, through blood tests.
At this time there is no laboratory test to identify any genes that increase a person’s risk for addiction. However, it has been shown that individuals with close family members with substance use disorders have an increased risk of developing a drug or alcohol addiction. The higher the number of relatives with substance addictions, the higher the chance of developing a substance use disorder.
Experiencing or Witnessing Traumatic Events During Childhood
Numerous studies of traumatic childhood experiences and adult drug and alcohol addiction show the two are closely linked. Research results show the greater the stress of childhood trauma, the higher the risk of developing a substance use disorder.
Traumatic childhood experiences include:
- Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect
- Experiencing or witnessing violence
- Losing a parent to divorce or death
- Having a parent incarcerated
- Having a caregiver or parent who struggles with addiction to drugs, alcohol, or mental health disorders
- Living in a house with domestic violence
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
When a person experiences traumatic events as a child or as an adult, post-traumatic stress disorder can occur, increasing the person’s risk of addiction. Experiencing or witnessing traumatic events such as war, natural disasters, mass shootings, or horrific accidents can result in PTSD. Many emergency service personnel and military members suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder. Experiencing sexual or physical assault, being the victim of a crime or serious accident, losing a loved one suddenly, or having serious health problems are additional examples of possible causes of PTSD.
Mental Health Conditions
People suffering from mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and others have an increased risk of developing a substance use disorder. People with mental health conditions often use alcohol or drugs as a way of coping with their symptoms. Their self-medicating attempts often lead to addiction.
In turn, people with a substance use disorder have an increased risk of developing a mental health disorder. When a person has both a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder simultaneously, it is called a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis.
Age of Exposure to Drugs or Alcohol
Research shows almost everyone who becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol began using substances before they were 18 years old. The studies also show that the younger a person is when they start drinking alcohol, the higher their risk of developing an addiction. Studies also show people who do not use drugs until after they turn 21 have a lesser chance of developing a substance use disorder at any time in their life. Early use of drugs or alcohol affects brain development. Addiction is a chronic brain disease that changes the brain by altering the neural pathways and causing neurons to change. The ability of the brain to change is called plasticity.
Drug of Choice and Method Taken
The type of drug a person uses and how they take it can increase their risk of addiction. Some drugs can develop into addiction very quickly, while others may take several months. Cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines can cause addiction to develop quickly. Alcohol and marijuana addictions take longer to develop. Smoking or injecting drugs bypasses the body’s filtering system and goes directly into the bloodstream and brain, making the substance more addictive.
We Can Help
Addiction is a disease that can affect anyone. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, now is the time to get help. Located in Mesa, Arizona, Canyon Vista Recovery Center can help you regain control of your life. Our skilled professionals will use a combination of evidence-based addiction treatments, psychiatric care, and holistic therapies to help you travel the path to recovery. Contact Canyon Vista Recovery today.