Understanding the Risk Factors for Addiction

While many people may assume that only reckless people develop substance use disorders, there are many risk factors for addiction. Anything from a person’s genetic makeup to his or her social circle, to his or her own family members can impact whether or not that person will develop a drug addiction. Ultimately, with the wide range of risk factors for addiction, anyone is capable of developing a drug addiction if put in the right circumstances.

Common Risk Factors for Addiction

Many people ask themselves, is addiction genetic or environmental? Well, the answer to that question is that it’s both. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), up to half of a person’s risk of addiction to substances is based on genetics. The other half is due to environmental factors. Thus, genetics and the environment impact the development of drug addiction equally.   

Biological Risk Factors for Addiction

Father & Son Holding Hands

Biological aspects of addiction include anything genetic that influences a person’s likelihood of developing a drug addiction. Some common biological aspects of addiction are described below. 


Many people wonder, does addiction run in families? Since families are connected to one another through genetics, and up to half of a person’s risk for addiction is based on genetics, the answer is yes. 

Genetics itself is a huge biological risk factor for addiction. Hence, individuals with close relatives suffering from drug addictions are more likely to end up struggling with addiction themselves. 

While genetics can impact a person’s development of a drug addiction, it’s not an automatic sign of future substance use issues. Other risk factors of drug addiction must also take place for a person to develop a substance use disorder. 

Variations in Metabolism

Another biological aspect of addiction is variations in a person’s metabolism. This is because variations in the speed that people’s bodies absorb and process compounds can affect the impact that drugs have on them. For example, one’s metabolism can make drug effects last for a longer time depending on the person. 

This could cause people that abuse drugs to feel the euphoric effects of substances for a longer period of time. This could then cause people to want to abuse substances more often, which could lead to drug addiction. 

Underlying Mental Illnesses

Underlying mental illnesses can act as a biological and environmental risk factor for addiction. This is because mental illness can be triggered by genetics, the environment, or both. Also, many people start misusing substances just to cope with their mental illnesses.

People that simultaneously suffer from mental illnesses and substance use disorders suffer from dual diagnoses, or co-occurring disorders. Common mental health disorders that co-occur with drug addictions include depression, anxietyschizophreniabipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Environmental Risk Factors for Addiction

Woman Sitting on the Floor

One’s environment impacts a person’s likelihood of developing a drug addiction just as much as that person’s genetics. This is especially true since there are so many different ways that a person’s environment can impact his or her future development. Some common ways that a person’s environment can impact the likelihood of him or her developing a drug addiction in the future include the following:

Abuse or Neglect in the Home

For one, a person’s household environment can have a strong impact on his or her future development. For example, even a person may contain close family members that have struggled with drug addiction in the past. Yet, perhaps those family members have been in recovery for a long period of time and have created a stable and loving household for that person throughout his or her childhood. Hence, that person could easily live a long life without any issues with substance use. 

Alternatively, a person without any close family members with substance use issues but has experienced abuse or neglect in the home may have a strong chance of developing a drug addiction. This is one example of when environmental factors can play a larger role in a person’s development of drug addiction than biological factors. 

Peer Pressure

A person’s social circle is another environmental risk factor for addiction. For example, people that socialize with individuals that often abuse substances are more likely to end up abusing substances themselves. This is especially the case if the individuals that a person socializes with peer pressures that person to use substances.

Early Drug Use

A person is also more susceptible to developing a drug addiction if he or she starts abusing substances at an early age. This is because people’s brains and bodies in their twenties aren’t fully developed yet. 

Therefore, when people participate in early drug use, they are making possible alterations to their brains that will then alter the way their brains and bodies develop and function for the rest of their lives. This, in turn, greatly increases the chance of such individuals developing drug addictions. 

Choice of Drug Use

The drugs that a person chooses to use could also be a risk factor for addiction. This is because some substances are more addictive than others. As a result, the withdrawal symptoms of these substances are often more severe. 

To avoid experiencing such severe withdrawals, some individuals will continue using the substances. In fact, some will even take higher doses of the substances. This could lead to a quicker development of drug addiction.

Method of Drug Use

The method by which a person abuses substances is one of the other risk factors for addiction. For example, smoking or injecting drugs into the body often makes them more addictive than swallowing them. This is because when people smoke or inject drugs straight into their bodies, it goes straight into their bloodstream and brain. 

This means that the drugs don’t have to go through the body’s liver and other organs first like they would have to if they were swallowed by mouth. Thus, the effects of drugs that are smoked or injected occur much quicker and more intense than those that are taken orally. 


Similar to with underlying mental illnesses, many people start misusing substances to cope with stress. This is partly due to the fact that chronic stress is a common precursor to mental illness. When individuals with chronic stress start to misuse more and more substances to cope, they may develop drug addictions. 

Prevention of Drug Addiction

While some risk factors for addiction are controllable, others aren’t. That’s why it’s important to learn how to both avoid and combat risk factors for addiction. 

Even though risk factors for addiction increase the chance that a person will develop a drug addiction, they don’t guarantee it. No matter how many risk factors for addiction that a person experiences, there is always a way to combat drug addiction. For example, you may be a person that has a genetic and environmental predisposition to developing a drug addiction. Maybe you should make the conscious decision to not drink or use drugs recreationally. 

Consciously surrounding yourself with people that don’t abuse substances and are a good influence is also a way to avoid risk factors for addiction. Even making healthy life choices such as exercising, eating healthy, and participating in positive activities that you enjoy can act as a form of drug addiction prevention. 

This is because making healthy life choices can prevent a person from developing an underlying mental illness and help the body keep an active metabolism. Maintaining good health can also help reduce stress levels. This is especially true when people maintain good health through cardio exercises that cause the body to release feel-good endorphins. 

Drug Addiction Treatment

Individuals that currently suffer from drug addiction should attend professional, medical detox followed by drug addiction treatment. Drug addiction treatment can come in an inpatient format or an outpatient format. 

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient drug addiction treatment requires patients to live in rehab facilities while receiving care.  This is because inpatient drug addiction treatment patients suffer from severe addictions and thus, need 24/7 care and monitoring. 

There are two different forms of inpatient drug addiction treatment, standard inpatient drug addiction treatment and residential drug addiction treatment. The difference between the two is that standard inpatient drug addiction is stricter than residential treatment. As a result, residential treatment patients receive more free time to participate in holistic forms of treatment. 

Outpatient Treatment

When it comes to outpatient drug addiction treatment, individuals can receive one of three options. These three options are partial hospitalization program (PHP) treatment, intensive outpatient program (IOP) treatment, and standard outpatient program (OP) treatment. 

Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) Treatment

Partial hospitalization programs require patients to attend rehab five to eight hours a day, five to seven days a week. PHP treatment is for individuals with moderate to severe addictions. 

Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) Treatment

Intensive outpatient program treatment requires patients to attend rehab for a few hours a day, a few days a week. IOP treatments are for individuals with moderate-level addictions. 

Outpatient Program (OP) Treatment

Standard outpatient program treatment requires patients to attend rehab for a couple of hours a day, a couple of days a week. Standard outpatient program treatment is for individuals with mild-level addictions. 

Combat the Risk Factors for Addiction by Attending Rehab At Grace Land Recovery

Grace Land Recovery is a dual diagnosis treatment center located in the Memphis, Tennessee area. As a dual diagnosis treatment center, individuals that suffer from mental illnesses that underlie their substance use issues can simultaneously treat their mental health disorders and substance use disorders here. 

Individuals that are looking to combat risk factors for addiction can also take advantage of the wide range of addiction therapies that we offer. For example, individuals that suffer from anger issues due to past abuse or neglect at home can take advantage of our anger management therapy or even trauma therapy services. People that struggle with a tumultuous family life that triggers their substance use can also take advantage of our family therapy services. Regardless of what your risk factors for addiction are, you can combat them in some shape or form through our addiction treatment programs, therapies, and services.

To learn more about all the different addiction treatment programs, therapies, and services that we offer here at Grace Land, contact us today. We would love to help you overcome drug addiction and learn to cope with all of your addiction triggers once and for all.