Putting Risk on Your Radar: 5 Common Risk Factors for Addiction

    Addiction is a devastating disease that knows no bounds. People of all backgrounds and cultures have been affected by addiction, but some are indeed more susceptible than others. While it can be difficult to predict for sure whether or not you’ll develop an addiction, scientists have done much research on the most telling risk factors.

    Dual diagnosis

    For many people struggling with a mental health condition like depression and anxiety, the risk of developing a drug or alcohol addiction is elevated. The medical community defines this pairing of disorders as a dual diagnosis. Suffering from addiction with mental health disorders becomes a vicious cycle. Unbeknownst to most, substance use can exacerbate pre-existing mental health issues. Those issues, in turn, intensify any form of addiction, causing people to spiral rapidly deeper into their drug and alcohol abuse. Unfortunately, treating a dual diagnosis takes intensive, specialized treatment plans, but monitoring and caring for your mental health before it leads to drug and alcohol abuse can help prevent addiction.

    Family history

    Researchers have spent years attempting to demystify the complex genetic interactions that lead to hereditary conditions. Addiction is one of those genetically inherited diseases that scientists have yet to understand fully. Still, studies suggest that up to half of a person’s risk of developing an addiction depends on your family history. If your family members have experienced addiction, you are more likely to become an addict yourself. Hereditary addiction can influence more than just drug and alcohol abuse. For those with a family history of alcohol addiction, you may find yourself attracted to gambling or drug abuse instead. It’s important to know whether your family has a history of addiction to gauge your risk level. 


    The nature versus nurture debate is one of the oldest in psychology and plays a role in addiction risk. Just as your family history may influence your risk of developing an addiction, the environments you are raised in and exposed to significantly impact your likelihood of developing the disease. Children who have experienced traumatic events often turn to drugs or alcohol later in life to cope with their feelings and emotions. Teenagers and young adults are also susceptible to developing an addiction because of peer pressure or if they’re exposed to drugs and alcohol regularly.

    Drug of choice

    Depending on your substance of choice, addiction can progress slowly or very rapidly. Those with alcohol or marijuana addiction often become addicted over time. It’s challenging to identify whether or not your substance consumption is substance abuse with slow-developing addictions. However, those who enjoy opioids or potent stimulant drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines become addicted very quickly. An intense “high” followed by a debilitating withdrawal phase pushes people to continue using and abusing substances. Unfortunately, these drugs also tend to be extremely powerful, meaning the likelihood of overdosing is also much higher.

    High-stress levels

    In today’s fast-paced world, stress levels are much higher than they were in the past. Many adults struggle with chronic stress caused by jobs, family, or other external factors. While experiencing moderate stress now and then is normal and healthy, constant, high levels of stress can lead to an inflated risk of addiction and other health issues. People who struggle to find healthy ways of coping with anxiety may turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. If you’re experiencing stress, it’s essential to find healthier ways of managing your mental health and stay away from alcohol and drugs.

    The bottom line

    Having a high risk of developing an addiction doesn’t mean it’s unavoidable. If anything, understanding your risk factors can make you aware of your possible triggers and help you create a plan to reduce the likelihood of becoming addicted. Consult with your doctor to learn more about what you can do to keep yourself healthy and happy.

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