Addiction does not care what your beliefs are or how you were raised. Because it can affect anyone, answering is addiction genetic or environmental is not cut and dry. There are both biological aspects of addiction and environmental risk factors of addiction. 

In this article, we will answer common questions about addiction such as:

  • What are the risk factors for addiction?
  • Does addiction run in families?
  • Are the risk factors of addiction genetic or environmental?

But, first, let’s explain what risk factors are.

What are Risk Factors?

Risk factors are anything that leads you to develop a behavior, condition, or trait. For example, risk factors for addiction lead you to use drugs or alcohol or develop an addiction later. 

When you understand the risk factors of addiction, you can manage and prevent developing a substance use disorder. However, just because you have one or more of these risk factors of addiction, it’s not definite that you will struggle with addiction. 

People deal with life’s stressors differently. So, a risk factor for you may not be a risk factor for another person. However, knowing the biological aspects of addiction and the environmental influences of addiction can help you avoid addiction altogether. 

Genetic and Environmental Risk Factors of Addiction

While there are many risk factors of addiction, we will look at the most common risk factors. If you are already using drugs or alcohol and any of the following apply to you, Discovery Institute can help you achieve recovery and live a life free of drugs and alcohol.

1. Addiction runs in my family. Will I struggle with addiction?

Risk Factors

Does addiction run in families?  Yes, addiction is hereditary. This means that specific genes have been passed down to you that increase your risk of addiction. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, genetics are almost half of the risk of addiction. For instance, if your family members struggle with addiction, you are likely to also struggle with addiction. 

However, it does not mean that you will have this overwhelming urge to drink or use drugs. But, it does mean that if you begin using drugs or alcohol, you have an increased risk of addiction. While you may not drink or use drugs by choice, you may become addicted to gambling or cigarettes. 

2. I first drank alcohol when I was 14. Will I struggle with alcohol use disorder as an adult?

Using drugs and drinking alcohol as a teen has been going on for decades. But, is it one of the risk factors of addiction? According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, besides the risk of brain damage, teens who drink alcohol will likely struggle with addiction as adults. 

Furthermore, they report teens age 15 and younger who begin using alcohol are four times more likely to develop substance use disorder than those who first drank at age 20 or older. Teens who have easy access to alcohol can further increase the risk of drinking at a young age.

3. I can’t afford to live in the best neighborhoods. Does that mean my children will struggle with addiction?

As much as every parent wants to give their child the best, it isn’t always financially easy. Some parents have to work two jobs just to put food on the table. As a result, many families live in low-income neighborhoods. 

But, does living in low-income housing increase the risk of addiction? Not exactly. However, the stress caused by financial struggles often leads to using drugs or alcohol. As a result, what money the family did have is spent on drugs. 

In addition, children growing up in low-income housing are often exposed to drugs and alcohol in the neighborhood. Watching drug dealers driving around in nice cars makes using drugs cool. As a result, teens may use drugs also to be cool.

4. I have PTSD from childhood trauma. Am I at risk for addiction?

Childhood trauma is one of the most significant risk factors of addiction. Furthermore, unresolved childhood trauma can lead to mental health disorders. As a result, of these mental health issues, people often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. 

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), over a third of adolescents with childhood neglect or abuse struggle with addiction before age 18. Additionally, up to 60 percent of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) sufferers develop a substance dependency. 

5. Are males or females more likely to struggle with substance abuse?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, men are more likely to use illicit drugs. While men of all ages have a higher risk of addiction than women, they are just as likely to struggle with substance use disorder. Additionally, women are more likely to have cravings and experience relapse, which are characteristics of addiction.

Environmental Risk Factors of Addiction

6. My parents are never home. What are my risk factors for addiction?

When parents take an active role in their children’s lives, it dramatically reduces their chance of using drugs or alcohol. Children and teens need clear rules and consequences and regular monitoring of their activities. 

When parents are always working or away from home, the only influence kids have is the tv and their friends. As a result, they are 50 percent more likely to use drugs and alcohol than teens whose parents talked to them about drug and alcohol use. 

7. My parents leave their prescriptions out. Am I at risk of drug addiction?

Whether you as parents are present in your kid’s lives or you are away from home a lot, leaving your prescription drugs out can be tempting for your teens. Prescription drug misuse in teens is growing at alarming rates. 

In fact, prescription drugs have become more of a problem than cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines. Data from SAMHSA shows 1.3 million adolescents 12 to 17 years old misused prescription drugs in 2016. Furthermore, almost 900,000 of them misused pain relievers such as opiates.

8. I take Xanax to cope with my divorce. Is this a risk factor for addiction?

If you are going through highly stressful times such as a divorce, a death in the family, or job loss, it can be easy to turn to alcohol or drugs to ease the pain. You may even get a prescription antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication. 

However, if you don’t treat the reasons for the stress, the medication will only be a temporary fix. Furthermore, these medications can be highly addictive, and people often misuse their drugs as an escape from their problems. 

9. My friends want me to do drugs with them. Will I become addicted?

Peer pressure is as common in teenagers as a bad attitude is. Peer pressure is often defined as causing someone to do something they typically wouldn’t do to fit in. While peer pressure can be positive, it is more often a risk factor for addiction. 

Negative peer pressure may include:

  • Being handed alcohol or cigarettes
  • Pressured into having unwanted sex
  • Being asked to shoplift
  • Being made fun of for not smoking marijuana

10. I have all A’s in school. Will I develop a substance use disorder as an adult?

Addiction

The 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows adolescents with higher grades in school are less likely to use drugs such as marijuana, prescription drugs without a prescription, or use heroin. 

Data from the survey also shows:

  • 24% of U.S. high schoolers mainly making A’s used marijuana at least once. This compared to 66% of students mainly receiving D’s and F’s.
  • 3% of high school students with mostly A’s tried marijuana before age 13. This is compared to 25% of those with mostly D’s and F’s. 
  • 11% of high school students with mostly A’s took prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Adderall, Xanax, and Vicodin at least once without a prescription. This is compared to 34% of students with mostly D’s and F’s.
  • 1% of high school students with mostly A’s used heroin at least once. This is compared to 10% of those with mostly D’s and F’s.

Risk Factors of Addiction Are Reduced with Treatment

Substance use disorder is a complex mixture of risk factors. From the biological aspects of addiction to the environmental factors, you may feel like you are destined to struggle with addiction. 

However, if you relate to any of the risk factors for addiction, comprehensive treatment can help. Even if you haven’t used drugs or alcohol but meet many of the risk factors of addiction, therapy can reduce the risk. Substance use disorder treatment helps you understand your addiction, prevent relapse, and manages co-occurring mental health issues.

Discovery Institute Helps Manage Risk Factors of Addiction

If you are struggling with addiction, you may feel there is no way out. Maybe you can answer yes to does addiction run in families. Or, maybe your parents let you start drinking as a teenager, and you’re worried you have alcohol use disorder.

Discovery Institute offers a comprehensive treatment of addiction. Our programs help you build a positive self-image, heal past trauma, and prevent a recurrence of use. Contact us today and find out how we can help you. 

References:

https://easyread.drugabuse.gov/content/does-addiction-run-families

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/genetics-epigenetics-addiction

https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/substance-use/index.htm

https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa59.htm#:~:text=Adolescents%20also%20are%20vulnerable%20to,or%20dependence%20later%20in%20life.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3743691/

https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/cbhsq-reports/NSDUHDetailedTabs2017/NSDUHDetailedTabs2017.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/health_and_academics/pdf/DASHFactSheetDrugUse.pdf

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.