“Risk Factors That Leads To Drug Addiction”

Drug addiction is not a new phenomenon. Drug addiction is one of the most prevalent disease found in our society today. Addiction can be further divided into two types that are chemical and non-chemical addiction. This article focuses on risk factors that leads towards chemical addiction or drug addiction.Chemical addiction is when an individual consumes any addictive substance to experience euphoric rush and pleasant feeling. Around 700 people die every day due to drug abuse worldwide. According to an estimate there are 7 million reported drug users in Pakistan. The number of unreported users is far greater than that. It is estimated that 1 out of every 3 drug user is female and only 1 out of 5 drug users enter rehabilitation as per the statistics given by Anti-Narcotics Force (AFC). This shows the lack of awareness of the negative consequences of drug addiction in our public.

When we introspect into the factors that leads to drug addiction in an individual, we find multiple reasons related to our genetics, our upbringing, our peer group and our surrounding environment which is mostly culturally specific. Let us explore these factors in detail to develop a better understanding.

Genetics

Drug addiction is more of a disease rather than lack of moral character or bad habit and just like any other disease, genetics plays an important role in drug addiction too. According to national institute of drug abuse (NIDA), heredity plays an important role in drug addiction and there is far greater risk of indulging in alcohol, heroin, cocaine and other drugs if you have any family member with drug addiction.

Environment

Environment plays an important role in our psycho-social development. According to a famous Russian psychologist, Lev Vygotsky, our social environment shapes our learning experience and we learn and adapt behaviors which are common in our surrounding. Likewise, most of the drug addicts are influenced and lured into drug addiction because of their environment.To explain this in detail, let us further divide our environment into two social institutions of learning. One is family and second one is peer group.

Family is a vital institution of learning. Children learn from their parents, model their actions and follow their footsteps. Our home environment has a great impact on our overall nurturing. Lack of parental involvement in teen’s upbringing can lead to great risk in thrill seeking behavior such as drug use since their parents are least bothered in their children’s activities. Similarly, due to negligence of parents, teens also opt for drug use as a substitute to deal with their low mood and to cope with their emotions. Children with strict parents also choose to use drugs later in their lives due to authoritarian parenting style. Teens are tired of their parent’s strict attitude and they again indulge in drug use to cope with stress.

Peer groupis another social learning platform. Peer group refers to our friend circle. Adolescents spends most of their time with their friends in school or in playground. If you are part of a peer group and all your friends smoke cigarettes or consumes illicit drugs, there is a great possibility of you adopting the same habit out of peer pressure in order to gel in with your group and not to feel left out.

Having Mental Illness

Another risk factor is having any underlying mental health condition. The professionals call this as the “Dual Diagnosis”. This means that if you have another underlying mental health issues i.e. Bipolar disorder, it can increase the chances of indulging in drug addiction. Possibility is that while in depressive state, a person uses drugs to elevate the mood. Similarly, already being an addict can increase the severity of your mental health problems. This works as vicious cycle in which one factor increases the severity of other and vice a versa. You might consume drugs to elevate your depressive state and you might feel good for a short period of time but in longer run, your depression and your drug addiction both becomes severe.

Prescribed Medicines

Prescribed medicines also known as licit drugs can also contribute towards addiction if they are misused. Prescribed medicines i.e. anti-depressants etc. are addictive in nature despite the fact that they are legal and regulated medicines but due to their addictive nature, a person might become dependent on such medicines and misuse them. This ritual might later lead towards using illicit drugs i.e. heroin, cocaine etc. since people who are dependent on licit drugs also often engage in poly drug use.

Age Factor

Another risk factor of drug addiction is the age at which an individual starts taking drugs. Since our brain grows with age and completes its growth in our 20s, a person consuming drugs in early age have chance of developing disease of drug addiction since drugs alter our brain’s functions and create hindrance in natural growth of brain. This also makes you prone to psychiatric disorders in future.

Prevention and Treatment

Despite all the risk factors, drug addiction can be avoided or managed with proper awareness and early intervention. Risk factors increase the chances of becoming a drug addict although having insight of the addictive disease and motivation for change can help you in this regard. If you are a drug user and you feel like your habit might turn into addiction someday, seek help as having proactive approach is beneficial is dealing with drug addiction. Willing Ways Pakistan under the leadership of doctor Sadaqat Ali is a pioneer Drug rehabilitation center which has helped thousands of drug addicts with their addiction. Seeking help beforehand is always better than regretting later.

Written by Umer Sultan (Clinical Psychologist)
Thoughts: Dr. Sadaqat Ali

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