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What Are the Major Causes and Risk Factors of Drug Abuse?

For decades now, the fight against drug abuse has been at the forefront of social issues. From Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” slogan permeating schools in the 1980s to the modern backlash against Big Pharma and the Opioid Crisis, our culture has devoted a lot of time and attention to tackling drug use.

But what about stymying drug abuse on a more personal level? Perhaps you’re wondering how to steer your child away from the lure of illegal drugs as they grow up, or maybe you have a loved one who is already at risk of falling into addiction. When it comes to addressing and understanding drug use for any individual, first, it’s important to know the major causes and risk factors of drug abuse.

1. Genetics

While genetics may not play a direct role in whether one begins experimenting with drug use, it can have a profound impact on the development of an addiction. In fact, research has suggested that as much as half of an individual’s susceptibility to drug addiction may be tied to preexisting genetic factors.

For example, the number of certain dopamine receptors in the brain may predispose someone to substance abuse. Specifically, individuals with fewer receptors are more likely to struggle with addiction. As the number of these receptors is partially determined by our genes, one may have a higher genetic risk of addiction immediately from birth, even before other factors become involved.

2. Family History

Similarly, a family history of drug abuse and addiction seems to impact subsequent generations. Part of this is likely tied to a genetic similarity, which may affect each family member with the same predilection for addictive behaviors. However, this may also be, in part, a social symptom as family members model behavior off one another.

Whatever the root of this phenomenon, it has been shown that having a blood relative with alcoholism or drug addiction puts a person at greater risk of developing an addiction themselves. One study found that the risk for addiction was eight times greater with a family history, including the use of various substances such as alcohol, opioids, cannabis, and cocaine.

3. Mental Health Disorder

It is very common to find mental health issues co-occurring with addiction and substance abuse. Individuals struggling with conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, or ADHD may use drugs as a coping mechanism to help them deal with sadness, anxiety, or loneliness.

Unfortunately, illicit drug use is not an answer to these problems and may actually worsen the symptoms and emotional turmoil of a mental health disorder.

To make the situation more difficult, people with mental health issues often struggle to access rehabilitation services for their drug addiction, making it more difficult for them to break the cycle and get clean.

4. Social Environment and Peer Pressure

Many drug users begin using at a young age, and peer pressure can play a major role in this decision. Teenagers and college students often feel an immense burden to fit in with classmates and friends. So falling into a social group where drug use is commonplace can pressure these young people to use drugs as a way of conforming to expectations.

An individual’s social environment at home can also play a role by informing their overall perception of drug use. For instance, if they are raised around attitudes that drug abuse is acceptable or “not a big deal,” they may be predisposed to experiment with drugs more readily.

To lessen this risk factor, speak honestly with young people in your circle about the dangers of drug addiction and encourage them to choose friends that share their moral values.

5. Lack of a Strong Support System

Potential drug users may be at an especially elevated risk if they lack a support system of engaged friends or family. Having close interpersonal relationships can help individuals resist other risk factors such as peer pressure or self-medication to battle depression. But for those who feel alone, have difficult family dynamics, or lack a close bond with their social circle, it can be difficult to stay resilient when faced with these challenges.

In regard to young drug users, a lack of parental supervision and accountability can also leave individuals at risk of trying dangerous substances — and potentially falling prey to addiction.

If someone you know seems in danger of drug abuse, let them know that you are there to provide support and are ready to help in any way you can.

6. Early Use

Sometimes, genetic and social factors are further complicated by an existing drug exposure from a young age. For example, infants exposed to drugs while in the womb may be born already addicted. Early exposure to drugs can also trigger changes in a child’s developing brain, increasing their vulnerability to drug addiction later in life.

7. Using a Highly Addictive Drug

Long-term drug abuse is also very dependent on what kind of drug is being used. Some of the most prevalent and persistent drugs are those that produce a strong physical addiction, making it that much harder for a user to resist temptation and overcome their pattern of behavior. To name a few, drugs such as cocaine, heroin, or prescription opioids are considered highly addictive from the very first use. If an individual is using one of these substances, it can make the process of rehabilitation a challenging one, with physical withdrawal symptoms and a high potential for relapse.

Get the Answers You Need with Countrywide Testing

If you believe that a friend or loved one is on the path to drug addiction, Countrywide Testing can help. Our tests provide confirmation so you can start addressing their risk factors and get them the support they need.

Countrywide Testing is an online retailer providing you with easy access to drug tests and pharmacogenetic testing. We offer an array of products for testing at home, individuals staying clean after rehab, workplace testing, healthcare emergencies, and law enforcement purposes. 

Our test kits are convenient, affordable, and ship to you quickly. Plus, our lab is accredited by SAMHSA, so you can rest assured your test results are handled in accordance with the highest industry standards.

Want more information on how Countrywide can support a journey toward full rehabilitation from drug abuse? Just contact our team today.



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