Risk Factors for Addiction
The question “how does someone become an addict?” does not have a simple solution. There is not one single factor that determines if someone will become an addict or not. However, there are certain biological and environmental attributes, which serve as risk factors that will greatly increase the chance an individual will develop an addiction if they are exposed to drugs alcohol or other substances.
The following risk factors are the reason some people become addicted while others do not.
Biological Risk Factors for Addiction
Even though there is no “addiction gene”, there are certain biological factors that affect someone’s chances of becoming addicted or not. These factors include:
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that genetic material is responsible for about half, or 40-60%, of the risk of alcohol use disorder. There is not one single gene that is responsible to a genetic predisposition of addiction, but instead the reality is there are hundreds of genes that could affect the chance of addiction, which all play a small role in the larger picture.
Just because someone in your family has struggled with addiction does not mean that you will as well, but it will increase the chances. For example, if a parent struggles with addiction, it is 8 times more likely that their child will suffer from addiction as well.
During adolescence, the brain functions that control decision making, judgment, and planning are not fully developed. Because of this, the teen brain is much more likely to want to participate in risky behavior. More than this, early drug use can influence the development of the brain, making someone much more susceptible to addiction in the future. The earlier a person begins experimenting with drugs, the more likely they are to become addicted.
Co-occurring mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can leave people at a greater risk for addiction. While there are many reasons this happens, sometimes people believe taking drugs or alcohol will help alleviate their mental health symptoms, but it is not a permanent or successful solution. In addition, because mental illness can affect the same brain chemicals as addiction, co-occurring disorders are very common.