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Contributing Factors of Drug Abuse

A person sitting inside a crowded bus, drinking coffee and stifling a yawn with a gloved hand, can catch the common cold. The little germs can attach to the coffee cup or the gloves, and they hitch a ride into the person’s mouth and begin to cause serious problems when they have arrived. The person doesn’t really need to do anything at all or have any specific kind of risk factor, in order to develop that cold. A drug abuse issue, on the other hand, can’t be passed through the air like this. In fact, there are several different components that all band together in a case of addiction, and all of the elements have an important role to play in the development of that drug abuse issue. These are just a few of the factors experts say are key contributors to drug abuse.

Genetics

Genetics and Drug AbuseDrug 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”
Any of these genetic factors could make drugs a little more attractive, and these factors could also make an addiction slightly more difficult to overcome. For people who have these issues, drug use very well could be influenced by basic biology. The genes might not make the person experiment with drugs, but when the person does begin to dabble, the use could quickly spin out of control due to these underlying genetic factors.

Environment

Environmental Factors of Drug Abuse
The home in which a person grows up could have a great deal of influence over drug use and abuse. A study in the Archives of General Psychiatry bears out this theory quite well, as researchers looked at drug and alcohol use in genetic twins who had been raised in different homes. Those who grew up in homes that were disrupted by divorce and mental illness, and those who grew up in homes where drugs and alcohol were at play, were more likely to become abusers when they grew up. It’s possible that living in homes like this causes such intense stress that using drugs seems like a reasonable solution, but it’s also possible that growing up in a home like this normalizes drug abuse. As the child grows and sees parents abusing substances, that child learns to also abuse substances.

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.

Trauma

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
  • Neglect
  • Accidents
  • Natural disasters
  • Terrorism

Trauma that Causes Drug AbuseThese 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.

Mental Illness

The relationship between mental illness and drug abuse is quite strong, with the National Alliance on Mental Illness reporting that more than one-half of all drug abusers are also dealing with a mental illness issue. For some, the drug abuse comes as they attempt to deal with the distress and pain that a mental illness can cause. For others, the drug abuse triggers a series of chain reactions that can allow a mental illness to take root and grow. There are others who have genetic propensities that might make them vulnerable to both addictions and mental illnesses, although experts caution that more studies should be done on this issue before a definitive line can be drawn. In any case, it’s clear that having a mental illness seems to go hand in hand with drug abuse, and once the connection has been forged, it can be difficult to break without help.

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.

Personality

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.

Important Disclaimers

Just because a person has factors that contribute to drug abuse doesn’t mean that the person is doomed to abuse drugs. Many people who have these factors never choose to use drugs at all, and some people who choose to do so dabble only once, and they stop when the first experience is negative. But when people with these factors do begin to experiment, their use can quickly spin out of control. If this has happened to you or to someone you love, we hope you’ll call us. Futures of Palm Beach is a state-of-the-art addiction treatment facility that pairs cutting-edge treatments with a personal, healing touch. We can help people to see the dangers in their habits, and we can help them to make important changes. If you need help, we hope you’ll consider us. Please call to find out more.