Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress and parental guidance can greatly affect a person's likelihood of using drugs and becoming addicted to them. Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical stages in the development of the life of a person to affect the risk of addiction. As with other diseases and disorders, the likelihood of developing an addiction varies from person to person, and there is no single factor that determines whether a person will become addicted to drugs. In general, the more risk factors a person has, the greater the likelihood that drug use will lead to drug use and addiction.
Protective factors, on the other hand, reduce a person's risk. Risk and protective factors can be environmental or biological. Mental health conditions, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, are also contributing factors to substance abuse and addiction problems. People use drugs and alcohol to cope with it, but certain substances actually increase depression and anxiety.
One of the main risk factors for addiction is heredity. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that up to half of a person's risk of alcohol, drug or nicotine addiction is due to genetics. That's why it's common for those with family members who have experienced an addiction to become addicted themselves. The most obvious risk factor is taking an illicit or mood-altering substance, but a complex network of risk factors can contribute to addiction.
Many substances that form the basis of addiction are not chemically addictive. This means that other elements can cause substance use disorders. Many people without other risk factors try medications for the first time to connect with a group of peers. Children and teens who struggle with homework or who feel socially excluded may be at greater risk of trying drugs and developing substance use disorder.
While there are a wide range of risk factors that can cause addiction, the first use of an addictive substance or participation in behavior that could become addictive often begins after the first experience. Any combination of risk factors can contribute to addiction. Sometimes, substance or behavior dependence doesn't require any risk factors to develop.
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