Addiction can impact anyone, although some are more predisposed to it. Several addiction risk factors can affect the likelihood of developing dependence.
Addiction is a medical condition and chronic disease affecting millions of people and those around them annually. People from all backgrounds, beliefs and walks of life can experience addiction in their lifetimes. However, some people are more predisposed to becoming addicted to substances and behaviors than others.
While it can be challenging to understand why some people are more susceptible to becoming addicted than others, several addiction risk factors may ultimately influence this.
What Happens to the Brain When Drugs are Introduced?
Addiction Risk FactorThe human brain is one of the most complex organs in the body. It is composed of many interconnected parts that work in conjunction with one another. These interlinked parts communicate through networks of neurons that run throughout the body, sending signals back and forth.
Drugs contain chemicals that tap into the brain’s pathways, whether prescribed or illicit. They disrupt how nerve cells send, receive, and process messages, signals, and information.
There are two common ways that drugs can cause this disruption: imitating the brain’s natural chemical neurotransmitters and overstimulating the “reward system” of the brain. Some drugs, including cannabinoids and opioids, have a similar structure to natural neurotransmitters. This allows the drugs to “trick” the brain’s receptors, activate these neurons, and send abnormal signals.
Other drugs, such as methamphetamine and cocaine, cause nerve cells to release abnormal amounts of neurotransmitters, chiefly dopamine, that impact the brain’s “reward system. As a result, the brain is flooded with dopamine, resulting in intense euphoria for the user. This reaction causes chemical learning reinforcement, which can cause people to repeat the rewarding effects of substance use.
Over time, chronic drug use can impact the basal ganglia, which is the critical component of the brain’s reward system. It plays a vital role in the positive forms of motivation. This includes the pleasurable effects of otherwise healthy activities and is involved in forming routines and habits.
Repeated exposure to drugs can lead to this circuit adapting to them. This reduces sensitivity and makes it difficult for the user to gain pleasure from anything other than the drug. Resulting in drug dependence and potentially even withdrawal symptoms is the likely outcome.
People who face a substance use disorder (SUD) may also experience a co-occurring mental illness and vice versa. Co-occurring conditions may include anxiety disorders, depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and schizophrenia. For additional information, check out the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) ‘s Common Comorbidities with Substance Use Disorders Research Report.
What Makes Some People More at Risk of Addiction?
Anyone can face addiction in their lives. However, the fact is that some people are more vulnerable to addiction than others. This increased vulnerability can be caused by various factors, including genetic, lifestyle, and environmental components, and is often influenced by a combination of factors.
While the use of substances on their own may not automatically lead to addiction, addiction can occur when different contributing factors are responsible for their consumption.
Addiction Risk Factors
Several common risk factors for addiction can lead to someone developing one. These risk factors can also help us understand why some people are more susceptible than others to it.
The most common risk factors for addiction include the following:
Various genetic factors may affect whether someone becomes addicted to a substance. Generally, these genetic differences influence how a person metabolizes a particular drug, which may result in a more intense side effect or greater reward response.
Drug of Choice/Method of Use
Some drugs are more addictive than others. The type of drug consumed and the chosen method of use can directly influence their effects. For example, certain substances, like opioids, are more addictive than others. Specific methods, such as injection, can produce a more rapid and intense effect than other methods.
Age of First Use
Another important addiction risk factor that may influence whether or not someone develops drug dependency is their age of first use. The brain is still actively developing until the age of 25. Any substance use at an earlier age may directly increase the risk of developing an addiction.
The environment a person is in can directly influence their likelihood of addiction. For example, factors including frequent exposure and easy access to alcohol, nicotine, and other drugs can directly affect whether or not a person potentially becomes addicted later on.
Several social factors may affect whether or not a person develops an addiction. A family history of drug or alcohol abuse is one of the most significant factors. Next is peer pressure from friends or coworkers and a desire to conform and fit in to be accepted.
A person’s mental state and overall mental health can cause them to seek out substances, which could result in addiction. People often use substances to help mitigate and manage various mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.
If I Have No Risk Factors, Could I Still Become Addicted to Drugs?
Yes, even if you have no apparent risk of addiction, you could still become addicted to drugs. No single factor can predict whether a person will become addicted to drugs. However, typically, the more risk factors a person has, the more likely they are to abuse substances and develop an addiction.
Getting Help for Drug Addiction
While drug addiction can be challenging to treat, it’s not impossible to overcome, and help is out there. If you or someone you love is currently struggling with addiction or a substance use disorder, options are available to help. Some of the critical options include medically-assisted treatment, drug counseling, group therapy, and the use of both inpatient and outpatient drug and alcohol treatment centers.
Treatment programs are sometimes intensive at first. Patients will attend multiple outpatient sessions weekly. After completing intensive treatment, patients move on to outpatient therapy. This level of treatment meets less often and for fewer hours per week. Ongoing treatment helps to help sustain their recovery long-term.
If you or someone you know is facing addiction challenges in or around New York City, consider contacting the professionals at NYC Addiction Resources for help. They have the information, resources, and referrals you need for drug rehabs, alcohol detoxes, and dual diagnosis rehab facilities in and near the NYC area.