Addiction 101: Who Is at the Highest Risk of Becoming Addicted?

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More than 21 million Americans suffer from addiction.

What makes people more likely to get addicted, though?

From genetics to mental illness, there is a myriad of risk factors for substance use disorder. The children of addicts, for example, are 8 times more likely to develop a drug or alcohol addiction.

Do you want to learn more about who is likely to get addicted to substances like opioids or alcohol?

Keep reading to learn about addiction risk factors and who is at the highest risk of becoming addicted.

Genetics and Family History

Many individuals with a family history of substance abuse want to understand better who will get addicted to those same substances.

The truth of the matter is that addiction can run in families. However, this does not mean that because someone in your family struggles with addiction, you will too.

You could be at an increased risk, though.

The American Medical Association deemed that alcoholism was a disease in 1956. However, the topic is still up for debate. What we consider as alcoholism today could have very well been “normal” behavior for our parents or grandparents.

Most people don’t know their family history of addiction, which can make it harder to determine genetic risk indicators.

Is It in Our DNA?

The same source reveals that one study showed the compound THIQ in some alcoholics’ urine, but not in non-alcoholics’ urine. Coincidentally, THIQ can bind to certain opioid receptors in the central nervous system. The same compound in mice seems to make them prefer ethanol.

This study, along with many others, still requires additional testing and research to confirm validity.

D2, a dopamine receptor, could be used to predict whether or not someone might become addicted to cocaine, heroin, or alcohol. Some studies suggest that those with more D2 receptors are less likely to become addicted than people with fewer receptors.

How many receptors individual people have is somewhat genetically determined, but this is yet another study that has yet to reach and provide conclusive data. There isn’t always a causal relationship between genetics and addiction.

Studies estimate that around 40% to 60% of drug and alcohol addictions can be attributed to genetics. When it comes to tobacco, that number jumps to around 75%.

Age and Personality

The earlier an individual begins to use drugs or alcohol, the greater the risk that they’ll face addiction later.

During adolescence, our brains undergo dramatic changes and development. Those changes continue into early adulthood. Because teens’ brains are still maturing, they are especially at risk of addiction.

Drugs and alcohol influence and make changes to the brain. Those influences can lead to an increase in vulnerability later in life to use and become addicted to a substance.

Do Some People Have Addictive Personalities?

Have you ever noticed how some people can consume 3 times as much alcohol as other people, yet they exhibit the same effects?

How about how some people can drink caffeine and go to sleep, whereas others will be kept awake all night?

People have different sensitivities to the effects of drugs and alcohol, but they also have different personality tendencies. The age-old concept of those with “addictive personalities” is somewhat of a myth.

However, there are personality traits and other factors that make an individual more prone to addiction. This article will tell you what it means to have an addictive personality

Home Environment and Other Influencers

When children and teens live in disorderly households with minimal adult supervision, they’re at greater risk for addiction and drug abuse in general.

Sometimes the home’s chaos can be a result of adult household members who have a mental disorder. Sometimes, it’s due to household members who also use drugs or break the law.

When individuals are exposed to stress early on, it often leads to early drug use, which turns into drug addiction and other drug-related issues down the road. Witnessing violence or enduring abuse adds to an individual’s potential to abuse substances.

It helps when teens grow up in supportive environments that boast consistent and strong disapproval of drugs. A loving and nurturing home with protective parenting and rules can reduce the risk of drug addiction significantly.

Peers and School

Encouraging your kids to choose friends who don’t use drugs can also protect them from early substance abuse. Plus, it’s crucial to grant teens with opportunities to participate in sports, the arts, and other fun and educational activities and hobbies.

If your child shows signs of slipping grades or is failing academically, don’t hesitate to get to the root issue and make sure they aren’t using drugs.

You don’t want to enable your kids. Strict and clear rules and guidelines are important. Love and understanding are equally as important as are open and honest, consistent communication practices.

Mental Illness

Depression, ADHD, anxiety, and other mental disorders might put people at higher risk for drug use and addiction.

Some individuals with mental illness use drugs to feel better or deal with their life and their issues. 

Mental illnesses affect the same circuits in the brain as drugs. Sometimes, the combined effects of one’s mental disorder and the drug they use to deal with their illness can increase the risk of addiction to that drug or drugs.

Who Is at the Highest Risk of Becoming Addicted?

It’s not always easy to determine who will get addicted to drugs, alcohol, or both.

Many factors can influence and increase the potential for addiction, but there isn’t enough research to determine who is at the highest risk of becoming addicted.

If you are at risk for substance abuse, make sure to surround yourself with as much support, structure, and positivity as you can, early on. Don’t hesitate to communicate or ask for help. Get the treatment you need, whether you suffer from addiction already or worry that you’ll abuse drugs in the future.

If you enjoyed this article, check our parenting blog daily for more tips and information concerning children and teens.

About Author

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LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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