The 6 Major Factors That Can Contribute to Substance Abuse
Substance abuse is a significant concern, and it can lead to a long list of physical, psychological, financial and emotional problems. No person is doomed to a history of substance abuse, but there are certainly some factors that can increase risk. Exploring six of the major factors that can contribute to substance abuse might help explain addiction or help to prevent it.
1. Mental Illness
It is impossible to separate the connection between mental illness and substance abuse. The two are often found together and mental health problems are undoubtedly a contributing factor to substance abuse. This is especially true when individuals struggle with mental illness but aren’t properly diagnosed or treated.
Dealing with mental illness is a tremendous challenge and it is something that can be overwhelming when there no medical help or medication is sought. As a result, lots of people who suffer from mental illness or a mental health disorder try to take matters into their own hands.
Self-medicating is common among those with mental illness. Trying drugs, or relying on alcohol, can be a means of coping. Unfortunately, as many as half of those individuals with severe mental illness will eventually become addicted to drugs or alcohol.
2. Genetic Predisposition to Addiction
By understanding that addiction is a disease and not a choice, it is possible to delve into the genetic components at play. Research shows that substance abuse and addiction is hereditary, which means that some people are inherently more likely to abuse addictive substances.
Having a genetic predisposition to substance abuse certainly doesn’t mean that a person is destined to addiction. However, it does mean that they may be more likely than another person to try an addictive substance and become dependent upon it. This helps explain why certain individuals can try or use addictive substances repeatedly without addiction and others may become addicted after just one or two uses.
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly how to determine whether addiction or substance abuse runs in the family. However, it likely has to do with the brain’s reward system. People with a larger reward system in the brain, also known as the basal ganglia, are more likely to struggle with substance abuse. The size of the basal ganglia, in turn, can be based largely upon genetics.
3. Personality Type
Sometimes, the main contributing factor to substance abuse is a person’s personality type. Those who are shy and cautious are less likely to try dangerous substances. On the other hand, risk takers are far more likely to struggle with substance abuse.
Individuals who tend to be more cautious and concerned about the consequences of their actions can struggle with substance abuse. However, their personality dictates that they are less likely to try addictive and dangerous substances in the first place. By not trying them at all, the odds of substance abuse development will be far slimmer.
In contrast, those who seek out thrills, adrenaline and risks are more likely to suffer from substance abuse. Individuals who are always looking for something new to try and a new rush to experience, may turn to drugs or alcohol for that thrill. By trying more substances and engaging in risky behavior, the chance of substance abuse in the future also rises.
4. Home Life and Financial Status
Many of the individuals who struggle with substance abuse first dabbled with drugs or alcohol in order to escape from other problems. Difficulty in one’s home life, or financial struggle at an early age, can play a role in the development of substance abuse disorders later in life.
It has to be noted that even people in wealthy families who have strong relationships with their parents can and do develop substance abuse problems. However, these issues are noticeably more common among those who were raised in certain environments.
Individuals raised in families broken by divorce, or where abuse was present in the home, are more likely to abuse substances like drugs and alcohol. A happier, calmer upbringing, on the other hand, can reduce the chance of substance abuse.
Poorer families can still have happy, wonderful relationships. An impoverished upbringing, however, can be more likely to include things like homelessness, food insecurity and lack of proper medical care. All of these risk factors, in turn, may contribute to substance abuse disorders.
5. Peer and Community Substance Abuse
Drugs and alcohol are often tried for the first time in social settings. Even if family life is great, individuals might use dangerous substances with their peers out in the community. For that reason, the type of neighborhood or social group a person is surrounded by can be a major factor in the potential development of substance abuse.
Communities where drugs and alcohol are used widely, and without shame, are also communities where substance abuse is more common. The availability of a dangerous substance is a direct factor that can contribute to substance abuse and addiction. When individuals, particularly young people, see others normalizing drug or alcohol abuse, it can seem less risky. Of course, that certainly isn’t true.
6. A History of Trauma
A history of trauma can have a serious impact on the development of substance abuse. Individuals who have a background of trauma are more likely to use drugs and alcohol, and they are in turn more likely to abuse these substances and even develop an addiction.
Trauma and substance abuse are so linked because those who experience trauma often don’t get the right kind of help for trauma recovery. Rather than benefiting from therapy, for example, many trauma sufferers turn to substance abuse to drown out pain.
Trauma can come in many forms. Often, it is sexual or domestic abuse. However, it can also be things like losing a family member or witnessing a violent act.
Many different factors can combine to create the development of substance abuse. When the signs of substance abuse are present, no matter their cause, seeking help through rehab is always the right choice for recovery.