No one factor can predict if a person will become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. A combination of factors influences risk for addiction. The more risk factors a person has the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction. Some common factors are : Genetics, Environmental, and Developmental.
-Genetics: The genes that people are born with account for about half of a person’s risk for addiction. Gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders may also influence risk for drug use and addiction.
-Environmental: A person’s environment includes many different influences, from family and friends to economic status and general quality of life.Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, stress and lack of parental guidance can greatly affect a person’s likelihood of drug use and addiction.
-Development: Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person’s life to affect addiction risk. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it will progress to addiction. This is particularly problematic for teens. Areas in a teens brain that control decision-making, judgement, and self-control are still developing. Teens also may be especially prone to risky behaviors, including trying drugs, possibly uanware of the potential dangers and consequences.
Reports find that addiction starts early in American Society. Studies have shown that 90% of those hooked on alcohol, tobacco, and/ or drugs started using them before age 18. Studies have also found that one-quarter of Americans who began using any addictive substance before age 18 are addicted, compared with one in 25 Americans who started using an addictive substance when they were 21 or older. By the time students are seniors in High School, almost 70 percent of students have tried alcohol, half will have taken an illegal drug, nealy 40% will have smoked a cigarette and more than 20% will have used a prescription drug for nonmedical purpose. Therefore, it can be concluded that adolescence is the most important period of life for the start of substance abuse and its consequences. Adolescents experiment with substances for a variety of reasons including the desire for new experience, peer pressure, attempt to deal with problems, and to perform better at school.
The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs.Most drugs affect the brain’s “reward circuit”, by flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine causing euphoria, defined as: “An experience of pleasure or excitement and intense feelings of well being and happiness.” Surges of dopamine in the reward circuit of the brain cause the reinforcemnet of pleasurable but unhealthy behaviors like taking drugs, leading people to repeat the behavior again and again. After awhile this feeling of euphoria wanes as tolerance to the drug develops. This often causes a person to take more of the drug to achieve the same high. Getting accustomed to a drug induced euphoria causes adaptations in the brain causing a person to become less and less able to obtain pleasure from things they once enjoyed naturally such as food, sex or social activities. In addition, long term use of drugs also causes changes in other brain chemical systems and circuits as well, affecting functions that include: learning, judgement, decision-making, stress, memory and behavior. Despite being aware of these harmful outcomes, many people who use drugs continue to take them, which is the nature of addiction. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease. People in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.
Drug use and addiction are preventable. The best defense against addiction would be to never start engaging in the destructive behaviors. Results from the National Institute On Drug Abuse- have shown that prevention programs involving families, schools, communities,and the media are effective for preventing or reducing drug use and addiction. Although personal events and cultural factors affect drug use trends, when young people view drug use as harmful,they tend to decrease their drug taking. Therefore, education and outreach are key in helping people understand the possible risks of drug use. Teachers, parents, and healthcare providers have crucial roles in education young people and preventing drug use and addiction.