Risk Factors for Addiction

Addiction is an all-too real challenge in the United States. Unfortunately, opioid and alcohol misuse are leading preventable causes of death – a stark reminder to take care with our health and well-being. Risk factors for addiction include not just genetic tendencies or mental health issues but also socioenvironmental ones such as environment and duration of use. We can proactively be mindful of these risks to keep ourselves safe from this serious issue.

Addiction, often called substance use disorder, is a chronic disease that affects the brain’s ability to control impulses. It is considered a chronic disease because while there are treatments for managing the addiction, there is no permanent cure. Substance use can be an incredibly hard habit to break, as even when cravings are overcome the person may still have desires for it.


With treatment and help from professionals, these cravings can become less acute and easier to address. In most cases, drug use has a drastic effect on how our brains function. Its use produces intense chemical reactions that we come to associate with pleasure, despite being fully aware of its damaging effects. This is known as addiction or substance dependence disorder (SDD). As tolerance builds up over time more of the same substances need to be taken in order achieve those happy feelings again- but unfortunately they only last fleetingly until needing another hit becomes unavoidable

Risk Factors for Addiction

Substance addiction can affect anyone – it doesn’t choose! Although there are certain risk factors that may increase the likelihood of someone developing an addiction, they don’t guarantee or exclude the presence. It’s important to remember that everyone is vulnerable and we should never take our safety for granted when using drugs recreationally.

Age of Use

Substance abuse can have a lasting effect on young brains, especially if usage begins during important stages of development. Even seemingly harmless substances such as alcohol could open the gates for more serious addictions in later life. Teens should be made aware that taking mind-altering drugs at an early age is potentially dangerous and may make them vulnerable to developing harmful habits even years down the road.

Environmental and Social Risk Factors

Environmental factors can also play a role in addiction. This is based on the exposure one receives in their life, specifically in their developmental years. For example, children accustomed to seeing their parents abuse substances are more likely to develop the same habits later in life.


In addition, children who grow up in dysfunctional home lives are also at increased risk of addiction later in life. Things like continuous tension in the home, lack of structure, and not having the emotional attention and affection they need from their parents can often result in the use of addictive substances. 


The influence of friends and family also can influence a person to try an addictive substance, even in adulthood. As humans, we have a natural desire to belong. To achieve acceptance, some will participate in the use of abusing these substances to ‘fit in’.

Heredity Risk Factors

A family history of addiction has also been proven to increase an individual’s chances of developing an addiction. This is because of the inherited genetics involving how the brain reacts to a substance. 

When individuals have parents who enjoy the feeling of being high, their brain generally interprets the drug in the same way their parents did.

Take back control of your life

Give us a call today. Our admissions coordinators will answer any questions you may have about our program and walk you through the admissions process.

Mental Health Risk Factors

Individuals with mental health disorders are also at a higher risk for addiction. This is because the substance creates the impression of well-being and happiness that those with mental health disorders lack.

If a substance seems to eliminate the negative impact on their mental health, they begin to rely on the substance to avoid feeling the things that usually weigh them down. But unfortunately, as time passes, these substances that once helped can cause their symptoms to be much worse. 

Why Do Some Become Addicted and Others Don’t?

From one person to the next, drug use can have a drastically different outcome. While some may be able to indulge in moderation, others find themselves quickly addicted when they try the same substance; their brains simply react differently. What works for someone else might not necessarily work for you.


Many endorse the disease model of addiction, including many major mental health organizations, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. This is because it takes into account the things that an individual cannot control, such as socioeconomic factors and brain chemistry responses. 


While some are hesitant to call addiction a disease because addicts seem to have choices and the ability to “just say no”, Grant and Massey both agree that willpower is seldom enough to prevent or stop repeated substance use.

Warning Signs of Addiction

There are many warning signs that indicate addiction. The warning signs are similar regardless of whether the person is abusing illegal substances or a drug prescribed by a doctor. 

If you notice any of the following warning signs, they likely indicate addiction:

Is Getting Help Difficult?

Getting help for drug addiction isn’t as difficult as you may think. Agape has many treatment options for addiction recovery. In addition, we focus on restoring mental health as an essential key to staying well after rehab. You can fill out our admissions form online to get more information on available treatments. The form is confidential and doesn’t obligate you to enroll in a program.

Related services

Have any questions?

My loved one is

24/7 Confidential Helpline

Table of Contents
Skip to content