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Have you ever wondered whether what the risk factors for substance abuse are? By this we mean, traits, characteristics, and experiences that increase the likelihood of turning to drugs and/or alcohol.

Sadly, nearly half of Americans know either a friend or a close family member who’s struggled with an addiction to drugs.

With substance abuse being such a common problem, we thought we’d put together a few pointers to help you identify any early signs of addiction.

Whether this is for your own piece of mind, or to help your friends and family, help themselves.

DISCLAIMER: just because someone identifies with these risk factors doesn’t mean they’re an addict, you’ll need to handle this situation with care and seek further advice before doing anything.

So, with that being said, let’s dive on in.

1. Genetic Predisposition

First things first, addiction isn’t about a lack of morals. Often sufferers are genetically predisposed to substance abuse.

This means that the chemical reactions in their brains are vastly different from that of a non-addict.

Unfortunately, you can inherit a genetic predisposition to addictive behavior. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this can increase your risk factor by over half!

Put simply, if your close relatives have experienced addiction, then you’re more likely to suffer from similar problems.

2. Psychological Factors

Furthermore, if you suffer from any of the below psychological factors you may be more likely to have issues with substance abuse:

  • Stress
  • Impulsive personality traits
  • An obsession with sensation seeking
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders

When someone suffers from both an addition and another mental illness, this is medically known as a ‘dual diagnosis.’

This can become a bit of vicious cycle. i.e., your mental health condition encourages harmful, addictive behaviors, but then the substance abuse increases the severity of your mental illness (in the long-run).

Hence, making the cycle of self-abuse challenging to break.

3. Access

Access and opportunity can be a massive factor that encourages people to ‘dabble’ in substance abuse, especially amongst young people.

Below a few scenarios which may increase the likelihood of using drugs and/or alcohol:

  • If your family, peers, or friends regularly use drugs/alcohol
  • If you have easy access to addictive substances
  • If you have a fascination or affinity to popular culture references that encourage substance use

Naturally, when you’re exposed to addictive substances while spending time with your peers, there’s a temptation to ‘experiment’ with alcohol/drugs.

The pressure needn’t be aggressive or even overt, just the presence of these substances can increase the chances of you trying them. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to an unhealthy addiction.

Top Tip: If you’re attempting to recover from addiction, one of the things you can do is limit your access to harmful substances.

This means stop hanging out with people who dabble in drugs or other harmful substances (as painful as this may be) or listening to music/watching movies that encourage your addiction.

By making these changes, you’re less likely to relapse and will eventually make a full recovery.

4. Environmental Factors

In addition to psychological factors, there are a few environmental factors that put you at higher risk.

For teenagers, this could be a lack of parental attention. Or, on a broader level, substance abuse could be a response to some form of trauma or abuse.

There’s a common misconception that taking harmful drugs will numb the pain and allow you to cope with your distress.

However, this can often lead to addiction, as well as a whole new set of problems (both mental and physical) that the sufferer will need to deal with.

5. Using Substances From an Early Age

If you began using alcohol, nicotine or any other addictive drug from an early age, then you’re far more likely to become an addict during adulthood.

Shockingly, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism found that young adults between 18 and 24 were most likely to suffer from drug and alcohol addictions.

This is troubling because indulging in addictive drugs can impact brain development. In the long-run, this can be extremely dangerous because you become more prone to mental health disorders.


Now we’ve identified the risk factors; we thought it best to talk about prevention.

Like we said at the beginning of this article, just because you or your loved ones exhibit one or more of these risk factors it doesn’t mean you’ll become an addict.

However, there’s a higher chance that an individual will develop some kind of addictive disease. So, you may want to swot up on ways to combat and prevent addiction from developing.

If you’re concerned, you should speak to a medical professional about this issue. They’ll usually offer you a few practical solutions you can implement to help keep you out of harm’s way.

They may also suggest counseling or other treatment options. Needless to say, you can live a perfectly normal and healthy life and overcome such addictions, it’s all about awareness and knowledge!

Were These Risk Factors for Substance Abuse Useful to You?

Did you find these risk factors for substance abuse useful? If so, you may find the advice on our blog of interest.

Over there we discuss everything from healthy foods for alcohol withdrawal to confronting an addict in your family. We hope these help!

Alternatively, if this blog post’s touched a nerve, please feel free to reach out and contact us via phone or email. We’d be more than happy to provide you with helpful advice on this subject.