Risk Factors for Drug Abuse
Having these risk factors present in your life does not mean you will develop an addiction, but it can increase the likelihood that misuse of substances could evolve into addiction. These include:
- Family history: While having a family member who has struggled with addiction does not necessarily mean you will develop one, there is a risk that you may more easily develop an addiction as compared to peers without family history.
- Peer pressure: Wanting to fit in with others and be included can be a major motivator in substance abuse. Spending time with substance-abusing peers can increase your risk of using drugs or alcohol.
- Home life: If substance abuse is normalized at home, it can feel as though using drugs or alcohol is not a big deal.
- Age of first use: Studies show that the earlier in life a person uses drugs or alcohol, the more likely they are to develop an addiction. Because the brain and body are still developing, substance abuse early in life can drastically impact healthy development.
- Method of consumption: The way a substance is consumed can affect how impactful it is. Inhaling or injecting drugs makes the effects experienced happen almost immediately, but they can fade quickly. This can cause a person to use larger doses more frequently in order to achieve the desired effects.
- Type of substance Some substances can cause addiction to develop more rapidly than others. In some cases, a person can develop an addiction after trying something just once.
- Biological factors: Body composition, metabolism, and genetic predisposition can all play a role in the development of addiction. This means that same dose of the same drug can have drastically different effects on two different people.
- Stress: Experiencing high levels of stress can make a person more inclined to seek an escape through substances. Substance abuse can become a coping mechanism that leads to habitual use.
How Abuse Can Turn Into Addiction
There are a number of reasons a person may begin using drugs or alcohol. Substance use may start off casually with no intention to misuse heavily; however, there may be side effects a person perceives as beneficial that encourage continued use. Some reasons a person may be encouraged to keep using drugs or alcohol include:
- Alleviating feelings of sadness: Drugs and alcohol can temporarily boost mood and may make a person feel more confident and happier. Obtaining a sense of euphoria can become addictive. If someone is struggling with depression they may be using drugs to self-medicate.
- Coping with stress: Substances can become a coping mechanism when dealing with stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions. Rather than facing difficult situations, some find escape through substance abuse to be easier.
- Improve performance: Sometimes, drugs may be misused because of what someone may perceive as a good intention. Some people use what are commonly called “study drugs” to improve academic performance. There are also instances in which someone may use performance-enhancing drugs to improve their physical appearance and performance.
- Experimentation: Drug and alcohol use may start from curiosity. Peer pressure, interest, and other influences can encourage a person to try using substances just to say what it is like. There may not be an underlying motive in using substances other than wanting to experience their effects first-hand.
Physical and Behavioral Signs of Drug Abuse
Because of the wide array of substances that are abused, there are countless signs and symptoms of abuse that may present themselves. Some symptoms of drug abuse are more prevalent than others and may be present regardless of the type of substance abused. In general, the following are some of the most commonly observed physical and behavioral signs of addiction.
Physical Signs of Drug Abuse
Changes in physical appearance are common in those who abuse drugs. As tolerance increases, a person will need to increase the strength and dose of the substance used, leading to more dramatic side effects. You may observe:
- Abrupt changes in weight
- Lack of hygiene and personal care
- Dental problems
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Changes in appearance of skin
- Bloodshot eyes
- Dilated or constricted pupils
Behavioral Signs of Drug Abuse
Substance abuse changes the way the brain functions and makes a person feel dependent on drugs to feel normal. Their behaviors, habits, and relationships with others can shift dramatically with the use of drugs. You may observe:
There are countless other symptoms that may be unique to the type of substance used. Any combination of factors can cause a person to develop an addiction. As signs and symptoms of addiction begin to manifest, it is important to intervene and help that person find help sooner rather than later. In most cases, professional help is required to improve recovery outcomes and effectively address risk factors, symptoms, and cravings.