Girl on phone looking out of window

Every person that goes through addiction treatment experiences the consequences of their addiction differently from one another. Even when considering the use of the same drug, the effects of the drug will vary from person to person.

There is no one path that leads to addiction, although several factors increase an individual’s risk of becoming addicted to alcohol or other drugs. It is essential to understand the risks involved with developing an addiction so that you can bring awareness to these risks in your own life experience.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a term mentioned often, although the definition itself is not widely understood. In the simplest terms, addiction is a condition that involves a loss of control over substance use. In a more accurate definition, addiction is a chronic condition characterized by compulsive drug seeking and continuing drug use despite the harmful consequences of doing so.

Addiction is a complex brain disorder. This is important to understand because many believe addiction to be a choice. Although a person’s initial decision to use drugs or alcohol might’ve been their choice, addiction is a persistent condition, meaning that it causes an individual to lose any and all control over their substance use.

Understanding How Risk Factors Play a Role in Developing Addiction

When a child is born, no one would be able to indefinitely say whether or not that child will experience addiction when they grow up. People of all ages and backgrounds can experience addiction, with some being at higher risk of developing an addiction than others.

Risk factors are anything that increases a person’s risk for developing a particular condition. In this case, the risk factors associated with addiction can be categorized by genetics, environment, and experiences.

Genetics as a Risk Factor

Genetics involves the passing of genes from a parent to a child when they are born. Heritability defines the tendency or likelihood of a particular gene to “run in the family,” which most people believe addiction to be. Research shows that specific gene sequences can be vulnerable when it comes to developing addiction and can be passed down to children.

Stress is another factor to consider in genetics. Many individuals may be more susceptible to anxiety and stress and altered personal gene expression, which can also be passed down to children. Repeated instances of stress can cause significant harm to the brain and body, directly affecting the brains’ reward circuit. Stress is an inevitable risk factor for the development of addiction, especially because many people initially begin to use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their mental distress.

Environment as a Risk Factor

“Environment” is an umbrella term for several risk factors that may increase a person’s chance of developing an addiction. These risk factors might include:

  • Living in an environment where others engage in substance abuse
  • Living in poverty
  • Experiencing homelessness
  • Financial instability
  • Access to drugs
  • Using drugs as a social norm

Parenting style may also contribute to when an individual begins to use drugs or alcohol. Young children are always mirroring behavior from family members, so if family members are using drugs or alcohol inside the home, the child is more likely to believe that that behavior is acceptable.

Poverty, homelessness, and financial instability are all risk factors for addiction. This is because substance abuse is likely to occur from mental distress, isolation, or lack of self-esteem, which all ties into experiences as risk factors.

Experiences as Risk Factors

Most people would refer to this category as the individual instead of experiences, although both terms define the same thing. Risk factors associated with the individual may include:

  • Negative attitudes, values, or beliefs
  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of sense of belonging
  • Learned drug use from other peers
  • Unresolved childhood trauma
  • Co-occurring mental health disorders or mental distress
  • Drug of choice
  • Individual brain chemistry

Personal experiences are very important in understanding whether or not someone will experience addiction. One of the most critical risk factors to be aware of is co-occurring mental health disorders, as substance abuse is a common experience of those that struggle with mental distress.

Another important factor to consider is an individual’s drug of choice. Some drugs are more addictive than others, which makes a difference in an individual’s susceptibility to developing an addiction. For example, a person may use heroin one time and become dependent on it. Meanwhile, another person might smoke marijuana every few days for years and be able to quit cold turkey.

Understanding the different risk factors associated with addiction can help reduce stereotypes associated with addiction itself. It can also help bring essential awareness to the risk factors in your own life.

Addiction affects everyone differently because every person’s brain reacts differently to a given substance. Several risk factors are associated with developing an addiction, categorized into genetics, environment, and experiences. Some risk factors, such as drug of choice, can make a person more susceptible to becoming addicted to a substance than others. It is essential to understand the risks associated with addiction to be better aware of them in yourself or your loved ones. Sabino Recovery is a trauma-informed treatment center that works to address numerous mental health disorders that may be the root cause of addiction. Focusing on trauma as a root cause of many mental health disorders sets our treatment facility apart from others, as we intimately personalize client care. Our healing environment will provide comfort and security as you begin your healing journey. For more information about the different treatment options we offer, call Sabino Recovery today at (844) 227-7014.