Drug abuse is often attributed to a lack of willpower or self-control, meaning that people who have addictions make a conscious choices to engage in their destructive behavior, but experts know that some forms of addiction have their roots deep in the cells of people who use drugs. The American Psychological Association, for example, states that about half of a person’s tendency toward drug addiction can be blamed on genetic factors.
The role of genes can be complex, and they can play out differently in different people, but genes have been linked to:
- An increased euphoric response to drugs
- A decreased ability to feel negative responses to drugs
- A quick reaction to drugs, when those drugs might cause slow reactions in others
- A quick leap to repetitive behaviors of all sorts, i.e., an “addictive personality”
Similarly, living in an environment in which drug use is rampant may also contribute to addiction. People may see their neighbors buying drugs on the street, and they may walk by needles, vials and other drug paraphernalia on a regular basis. Calls from drug dealers might ring out through the night air, and the person might be approached by dealers on a regular basis. Once again, this behavior can normalize drug use and make the person feel as though abuse is both common and harmless. Additionally, living in a crime-laden neighborhood like this can be stressful, and some people may turn to drugs in order to soothe their fears and worries. Drugs seem like a way to fit in and get relief, and the allure can be hard to resist.
The world isn’t always a safe place in which to live, and from time to time, people are exposed to trauma, including:
- Physical altercations
- Sexual abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Natural disasters
These events can leave their mark on the mind, and in time, people who are exposed to issues like this might be tempted to soothe their distress by leaning on addictive drugs. The link between this kind of trauma during childhood and adult substance abuse is quite clear, and it’s alarming, as the National Child Traumatic Stress Network reports that one in four American children experience at least one event like this prior to age 16. Proper therapy can help people to process these events so they won’t be tempted to lean on drugs, but those who don’t get this kind of therapy may be vulnerable to addictions down the line.
Influence of Peers
It’s often said that teens use drugs when their friends do. Using drugs allows these young people to fit in with their peers and blend in with the crowd, and it might also give teens something to do when the days grow long and they’re tired of their televisions, computers and video games. Adults, however, can also be influenced by the people they live with. Spouses, for example, can provide a spur to drug use. If one spouse uses drugs, the other might join in, hoping to understand the allure. The once-sober spouse might also use drugs as a peace-making effort. Instead of fighting about the drugs, the two might use drugs together. While it might initially seem harmonious, this act can allow an addiction to blossom.
Sometimes, the way a person thinks and the way a person reacts in a given situation can lead to drug abuse. For example, some people are impulsive, and they’re given to simply acting on a stimulus instead of thinking through their options and making decisions based on future consequences and current benefits. Impulsivity like this could allow people to experiment with drugs, while people who are more cautious might never dare to do so. A study in the journal Health Psychology also found a link between drug use and personality factors such as poor self-control and a “difficult temperament.” People like this may have few friends and an inability connect with others, and drugs might seem like an ideal way to soothe their pain. It’s reasonable to say that personality traits like this could lead to drug abuse.