Not everyone who uses drugs or drinks alcohol becomes addicted. Several factors have been proven to increase a person’s risk of developing an addiction. Even those in a high-risk category, however, can take steps to minimize that risk and maintain an addiction-free life.
Risk Factors for Addiction
Anyone, regardless of age, gender or economic status, can develop an addiction. The chances of becoming addicted to substances increase, however, when certain factors are present.1 The following characteristics can increase your risk of addiction:
- Genetic predisposition: If a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, has a history of substance abuse, you are at a greater risk for addiction yourself.
- Gender: Men are more prone to having issues with drugs or alcohol than women.
- Co-occurring mental health disorders: If you suffer from a psychological issue, such as depression, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder, you are more likely to use or abuse substances.
- Peer pressure: Young people, particularly young men, are at risk for using drugs or alcohol due to pressure from their peers. This can lead to addictive behaviors.
- Family environment: For those who have a difficult home situation, the risk for addiction becomes higher.
- Taking addictive drugs: Whether you are taking prescription medications like opioids to treat pain or are abusing them for their euphoric properties, these drugs are highly addictive and can cause you to develop an addiction.
Early Substance Use
The age at which you begin using drugs or alcohol is also a predictor of possible addiction. Over 90 percent of people with substance abuse issues started using drugs or alcohol before the age of 18, meaning young people are more prone to developing addiction.2 This can also predispose you toward mental health disorders as you age and an addiction progresses.
Lessening Your Risk for Addiction
If you find that some of the risk factors above pertain to you, you can still avoid or prevent substance abuse from affecting your life. These risk factors do not absolutely determine the course of your life.
Take some steps to protect yourself from developing a substance use disorder. Speak with your physician about your concerns and your risk factors. They can make some recommendations, such as counseling, abstinence and other strategies to prevent the development of an addiction.
Make the lifestyle changes that will take you off the path that leads toward addiction. Choose the people to include in your social circles with care and avoid those who overindulge themselves or who pressure you to use substances.
Work to focus on positive thoughts and avoid negativity, as anxiety and other mental health issues can lead to addiction or worsen it. Seek out counseling to combat these vulnerabilities.
Even if you are at risk for addiction, you can choose to be proactive in addressing the issues that put you at a disadvantage and lead a healthy, addiction-free life.
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