Substance Abuse Risk Factors

Substance Abuse Risk Factors

First, we need to define what a “risk factor” is. In general a risk factor is a characteristic that occurs statistically more often for those who develop substance abuse issues. In the case of substance abuse the risk factors are typically broken down in sub-categories to include individual, family, and social/cultural characteristics.

Risk factors can, statistically, increase your chance of becoming addicted, but they don’t guarantee that you’ll experience addiction. People of all backgrounds and beliefs can experience addiction, addiction is not biased. Regardless of one’s upbringing or moral/ethical beliefs, etc…, there are many factors can raise your risk of becoming addicted. Your genetics, environment, medical history, and age all play a role even societal influence.

Community Environment:

Living in an economically depressed area with:

– High unemployment
– Inadequate housing
– High prevalence of crime
– High prevalence of illegal drug use

Minority Status Involving:

– Racial discrimination
– Culture devalued in American society
– Differing generational levels of assimilation
– Cultural and language barriers to getting adequate health care and other social services
– Low educational levels
– Low achievement expectations from society

Family Environment:

– Alcohol and other drug dependency of parent(s)
– Parental abuse and neglect of children
– Antisocial, sexually deviant, or mentally ill parents
– High levels of family stress, including financial strain
– Large, overcrowded family
– Unemployed or underemployed parents
– Parents with little education
– Socially isolated parents
– Single female parent without family/other support
– Family instability
– High level of marital and family conflict and/or family violence
– Parental absenteeism due to separation, divorce, or death
– Lack of family rituals
– Inadequate parenting and little parent/child contact
– Frequent family moves

Constitutional Vulnerability of the Child:

– Child of an alcoholic or other drug abuser
– Less than 2 years between the child and its older/younger siblings
– Birth defects, including possible neurological and neurochemical dysfunctions
– Neuropsychological vulnerabilities
– Physical disabilities
– Physical or mental health problems
– Learning disabilities

Early Behavior Problems:

– Aggressiveness combined with shyness
– Aggressiveness
– Decreased social inhibition
– Emotional problems
– Inability to express feelings appropriately
– Hypersensitivity
– Inability to cope with stress
– Problems with relationships
– Cognitive problems
– Low self-esteem
– Difficult temperament
– Overreacting

Adolescent Problems:

– School failure and dropout
– At risk of dropping out
– Delinquency
– Violent acts
– Gateway drug use
– Other drug use and abuse
– Early unprotected sexual activity
– Teen pregnancy/parenthood
– Unemployed or underemployed
– At risk of being unemployed
– Mental health problems
– Suicidal

Negative Adolescent Behavior and Experiences:

– Lack of bonding to society (family, school, and community)
– Rebelliousness and nonconformity
– Resistance to authority
– Strong need for independence
– Cultural alienation
– Fragile ego
– Feelings of failure
– Present versus future orientation
– Hopelessness
– Lack of self-confidence
– Low self-esteem
– Inability to form positive close relationships.
– Vulnerability to negative peer pressure

*adadpted from:

These risk factors are only a few and are only indicators for the potential of substance abuse, based on years of studies and analysis.

Please note that while these indicators can be helpful in identifying someone who may be vulnerable to developing alcohol or other drug problems, they are not necessarily predicative for an individual.

There are no simple solutions for helping youth at high risk for developing alcohol or other drug problems. Reducing risk factors and fostering resiliency are part of a comprehensive approach to prevention and are consistent with a public health approach to reducing problems.

Even if you have or if you know someone who has many risks factors for addiction and substance abuse, you can help or be helped.

If you have a lot of risk factors for addiction talk to your doctor, talk to friend or family member, talk to us! Seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of.

If you suspect you have an addiction or know someone who may, ask for help.  It’s possible and with the resources available today, very probable to recover from an addiction and/or substance abuse.

We are here to help!

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