Substance use is extremely common. Most Americans drink alcohol at least occasionally, most have at least tried marijuana and a substantial minority use it regularly, and every day, people take prescription painkillers after medical procedures and stop taking them when their prescription ends. Why is it then, that roughly 10 percent of the population uses the same substances as most other people, but develop a substance use disorder? Addiction is complicated and depends on the interplay of several factors. Anyone can become addicted under the right circumstances, but the following factors can make you more susceptible.
This is the biggest risk factor, accounting for about 50 percent of addiction risk. If you have a parent, a sibling, a grandparent, an aunt, or an uncle that has struggled with addiction, you are likely at increased risk. The closer the relative, the greater the risk. There are many different ways genes can influence addiction and researchers have identified dozens of genetic factors that correlate with addictive behavior. Some of these have to do with dopamine signaling in the brain and some have to do with the way alcohol is processed in the liver. Some are related to mental health issues such as schizophrenia, which can also increase your risk. If you have a parent who struggles with addiction, the effect of genes is compounded by learned behavior and the greater likelihood of adverse childhood experiences.
Adverse childhood experiences
Another significant predictor of addiction is the number of adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, you’ve had. These are things like abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence at home. People with four or more ACEs are significantly more likely to struggle with addiction.
Trauma doesn’t have to be experienced in childhood for it to contribute to addiction. Trauma from an accident, assault, or unexpected death of a loved one can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, which increases your risk of addiction. Symptoms of PTSD often include extreme anxiety or panic, flashbacks to the traumatic event, intrusive thoughts, and insomnia. People often use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. It is estimated that more than half of people with PTSD have a substance use issue.
Who you spend your time with–especially when you’re young–has a big effect on whether you develop addiction. Kids who feel socially ostracized often see drugs and alcohol as a way of fitting in and finding an identity. Teenagers are susceptible to peer pressure, so if a lot of their friends are using drugs and alcohol, they are more likely to do it too. People who tend to end up in codependent or abusive relationships as adults are also at much greater risk for addiction.
Most people struggling with addiction have another mental health issue to go along with it. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, ADHD, and antisocial personality disorder are all common dual diagnoses with addiction.
Another major predictor of addiction is early use. Part of this is related to parental use, since drugs and alcohol tend to be more easily available if a family member is already addicted. Kids sometimes start drinking as young as 10 years old and are already addicted as teens. Early substance use also harms cognitive development, further impairing your judgment and self-control and making it harder to quit.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.