Risk Factors for Drug Abuse

While kids and teens often experiment with drugs in a social setting, there are factors that can make certain individuals more likely to abuse drugs. A teen may try a drug because her friends are doing it, but her use may spiral out of control due to depression, anxiety or other life circumstances. Understanding the key risk factors for drug abuse can help parents and educators identify young people who may need extra concern or care.

Risk Factors for Drug Abuse:

  • Academic failure or lack of academic motivation
  • Alienation from peers or family
  • Anti-social behavior, including early aggressive behavior
  • Early first use of drugs
  • Drug availability in the community
  • Improper parenting – having parents who are distant, uninvolved with their children, poor monitors of their children’s activities or who have not established or enforced clear rules with their children
  • Long work hours
  • Loss of control/external locus of control – feeling that their lives are beyond their control
  • Low socioeconomic status
  • Parent or sibling alcohol/drug use
  • Parental divorce, remarriage or other homelife transitions
  • Sensation-seeking behavior

There are also biological factors that can increase an individual’s likelihood of drug abuse. While these circumstances are impossible to change, awareness of their presence can help parents and educators target at-risk young people for selective intervention.

Biological factors include:

  • Genetic predisposition toward addictive behavior
  • Mental illness (specifically, those with ADHD, depression or anxiety, as well as other mental illnesses)
  • How the body metabolizes the substance (those with a higher natural tolerance may ingest more to achieve the drug’s effects, thus raising their likelihood of addiction)
  • Gender – men are twice as likely to have drug abuse problems
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