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Addiction Causes and Risk Factors

Risk factors and causes
Substance abuse and drug addiction affects Americans across all age, gender, and ethnic/racial groups. Different drugs may be easier for a particular person to become addicted to than another.  And, different people become addicted to a particular drug than another.  Addiction can be influenced by several factors:  age, environment, genetics, a particular personality or the presence of emotional problems, and the specific drug used.

Age - Young people may be particularly at risk of abusing drugs, and therefore at a greater chance of developing an addiction.  This is because decision-making and judgment-making are not as fully developed for young people as for adults.   Because of this, the person may use a drug, perhaps repeatedly, and therefore is at a higher risk of developing an addiction.  However, addiction can occur at any stage of life.

Environment - Associations (friends AND family), and the cultural attitude and peer pressure towards substance abuse have an important role to play.  A person who has friends using drugs may be influenced to use the drug him/herself.  Whether or not drug use is viewed as acceptable or not may play a role in whether or not a drug is abused, and eventually, if an addiction is formed.

Genetics - Genetics can play an important role in determining whether or not a person is more likely to become addicted to a particular drug.  Some families have greater histories of alcohol or drug abuse than other families. 

Personality and emotional problems - People under stress may seek out drugs to temporarily 'escape' from current pressures.  Or, perhaps a particular individual's personality gravitates towards risk-taking behavior.  

Type of drug used - Particular drugs may result in physical addiction more easily, or quickly, than others.  Heroine and cocaine are but two examples.  

Because the consequences of addiction or drug abuse can be severe, it is extremely important that you recognize symptoms so that diagnosis and treatment can occur.  Are you, a loved one, or a friend experiencing symptoms of addiction?  How can you determine this?   Read the next section on Signs and Symptoms of Addiction for additional information on drug abuse symptoms.

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