Contrary to popular belief, addiction isn’t a character flaw. It is a chronic disease that develops when a person becomes psychologically or physically dependent on a drug. A person becomes addicted because drugs and alcohol change the way the brain works. This makes it hard for someone to stop using. There are a variety of factors that make an individual more likely to develop an addiction. Here are some of them.
Addiction is partly wired into our brain. A person’s biology makes him or her more or less likely to develop an addiction than others. Research indicates that about half of a person’s risk of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol depends on genetic makeup. People whose parents have a history of alcohol abuse are four times more likely to develop an addiction to alcohol.
2. Mental Health Conditions
A person who has a mental health illness such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia is much more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder than someone without these issues. Mental health disorders and substance abuse tend to co-occur at a high rate. There are many reasons why these disorders occur together — including the fact that both often have similar risk factors and may have the same genetic underpinnings. Also, mental health symptoms might contribute to substance abuse. For example, a person with bipolar disorder might abuse substances to help him or her cope with symptoms of the disorder.
3. History of Trauma
A history of trauma is related to addiction. Childhood sexual abuse, grief and loss, and other traumas can trigger addiction in some people. The person may start using drugs or alcohol to ease the pain of the trauma and then become addicted.
4. Exposure to Substance Abuse in Childhood
Research has consistently shown that exposure to alcohol and drugs before age 15 significantly increases the risk of developing a substance abuse disorder in adulthood. Additionally, people are most likely to begin abusing drugs and alcohol during adolescence. Adolescent or teen drug use can quickly progress to addiction.
5. Chronic Stress
Stress is a key risk factor in addiction. Chronic stress levels coupled with poor coping skills are linked with the development and maintenance of addiction. Research has shown that employment, marriage and family dysfunction are all related to increased rates of addiction. The greater the number of stressors to which a person is exposed, the greater the likelihood of developing an addiction. One reason for this link is because stress tends to weaken a person’s ability to resist impulses.
Coping With Drug Addiction Risk Factors
While some risk factors cannot be changed, such as genetics, there are other ones that can be reduced. Here are some ways to cope with various risk factors:
- Mental health conditions: The best way to cope with mental health conditions is to seek appropriate treatment and follow through consistently. The proper treatment can help moderate symptoms, which can reduce the need to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
- Trauma: Although you cannot eliminate trauma, you can cope with it. Getting the proper counseling for trauma can also reduce the risk of developing a drug addiction. When trauma is treated properly, you are less likely to cope with it by using drugs or alcohol.
- Stress: It is important to learn how stress works and to develop the skills needed to manage it. Learning how to cope with stress can help you avoid addiction and live a healthier life. Some of the best ways to manage stress include yoga, walking and swimming. Talking to someone you trust about your stress can also help.
How to Get Help
If you believe that you or someone you love is addicted to drugs or alcohol, reach out for help. Buena Vista Recovery offers a range of services that are designed to help you overcome addiction.