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The Risk Factors for Substance Abuse – What You Need to Know

In the world we live in today, our exposure to drugs and alcohol is greater than ever. Depending on a person’s life situation, some people are more prone to drug and alcohol use than others. In fact, there are many risk factors that increase a person’s likelihood of using drugs and later becoming an addict. So what do you need to know to stay informed and help those around you who may be struggling with substance use and abuse? Here are some major predispositions to be aware of:

Family History

Having one or more family members who either have a history of addiction or are currently using, is probably the most dangerous of all predispositions. Children automatically look up to their parents and siblings as role models, and if they are being constantly exposed to drug culture, it will only increase their risk of becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol themselves. However, this is not just a learned behavior; many studies have shown that there is a genetic link to addiction. Although scientists have been unable to pinpoint it, there is a strong correlation that if one family member is an addict, others will develop the disease as well. [inline_cta_six]

Family Dynamic

Having parents who are involved, caring, and authoritative are likely to raise their children without the issue of drugs looming over their heads. With a strong bond and adequate discipline, parents are able to use their good relationship with their children as a protection again drug use. Unfortunately, if the child’s parents show a lack of involvement and nurturing, they may be detrimental towards their child’s attitude about drugs. If children feel as if their parents do not care or if they are not adequately supervised, they are more likely to experiment with drugs and later down the road face addiction. Such a lack of attachment and structure of discipline between child and parent increases the risk of use. The opposite end of the spectrum can be just as damaging. Parents that are overbearing and unnecessarily strict can cause children to rebel against their teachings and involve themselves with dangerous substances.

Medical History

There are many physical and psychological medical conditions that make people susceptible to developing drug or alcohol addiction. Struggles with depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD can all lead to substance use. These substances allow the person to escape uncomfortable feelings of loneliness, fear, or sadness that come with such medical problems. Others may become addicted to drugs because they have used and used prescription medications that eliminate pain or other unpleasant physical symptoms of a condition. Vicodin and other opiates are high-risk drugs for such use.


While anyone in any age group can become addicted to drugs, teenagers face the highest levels of risk due to peer pressure. During this chaotic period of puberty, they struggle to look cool and fit in. This is a problem if those that they are associating with are using drugs, as they are likely to be pressured into doing them as well. Unfortunately, the earlier a child is exposed to drugs, the more likely their use will become use in later life.

Personality Attributes

If a person has one or more of the following traits, they are more at risk for use and addiction than those who don’t:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of ambition
  • Risk-seeking behavior
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Rebellious behavior
  • Anti-social behavior
  • Aggressive behavior


Just being male alone more than doubles your risk of addiction, according to studies done at Mayo Clinic.

Socio-Economic Situation

Growing up in a community that has a favorable or indifferent attitude towards the use of drugs and alcohol causes people living in that area to be put at a higher risk of use. Impoverished areas, with high unemployment and economic deprivation, typically host poor school systems, bad neighborhoods, and gang involvement. All of these factors can then increase the likelihood of drug involvement, especially if there is easy access to such substances. In essence, all of these factors come together and increase the risk of drug and alcohol use in individuals. If you or a loved one is struggling with drug use or addiction, our counselors at Vertava Health can help. Contact us today for information regarding rehabilitation and treatment.