The amount of vulnerability a teen has to become addicted to something differs from one teen to next. And, there’s no single factor you can use as a basis for determining whether or not your teen will become addicted to drugs. Yet, there are risk factors that experts believe increase teens’ chances of becoming addicted to the drugs they experiment with.
Risks Factor and Protective Factors
These risk factors are general behaviors that make teens at risk for addiction. There are also protective factors that can help to combat addiction. Some of the risk factors and protective factors include:
- Aggressive behavior – Can be combatted with self-control
- No or very little parental supervision – More parental support and monitoring can help
- Lack of social skills – Positive relationships are better
- Early drug experimentation – Competence in academics lowers risks
- Drugs available at school – Strict school anti-drug policies can deter drug use
- Poverty within local community – Learning to take pride in neighborhood helps
Environmental Factors That Increase Chances of Teen Addiction
The main environmental factors that can increase your teen’s chances of becoming addicted to drugs are home, family, peers and school. Let’s examine these factors:
- Home and Family – A child’s home-life is an extremely important influence. Family is also very important, with older family members and parents being the most influential in kids’ lives. When they abuse drugs or alcohol, the chances of the children in the home having future drug problems increases greatly.
- Peers and School – Friends and other teens have very strong influences in the lives of teens. Even teens with no risk factors can be persuaded to try drugs by friends and peers who are users. Poor social and academic skills can also have an influence on teens becoming drug addicts.
2 Other Factors That Increase Risks of Teen Addiction
Not every teen who tries drugs becomes addicted to them. But, there are two other risk factors that increases the chances of them becoming addicted to the drugs they try:
- Early Drug Use – No matter how old a person is, experimenting with any drug can lead to developing an addiction to it. However, according to research findings, the earlier a person starts using drugs in life, the more likely he/she is to becoming addicted to those drugs.
- Drug Use Methods – Some methods of drug use put your teen at higher risk of addiction than others. For example, intravenous drug users tend to become addicted faster, and in higher numbers than smokers.
Yale University Study on Drug Addiction as a Developmental Disorder
Results from a Yale University study suggest that “drug addiction is a developmental disorder.” It seems that disorder affects teens in particular. Why? Well, there are areas of a teen’s brain, which aren’t fully developed yet, that control the teen’s compulsive behavior. Certain activities trigger brain chemicals, which tell you teen, “That feels good. Do it again.”
4 Notable Implications of the Yale Study
- The longer you can get your teen to delay trying (using) alcohol and drugs, the lower the chances of her/him becoming addicted. Programs that help educate children and adolescents about the harmful effects of drug use have been known to help.
- Parents and other adults must stop dismissing teens experimenting with drugs as harmless. History has proven that even a single hit, drink, other method of drug use can have lifetime implications. NIAAA reports that about 50% of teens have drank alcohol at least once before reaching eighth grade. More than 20% have reported actually being drunk.
- Peer pressure and genetic influences are not the only sources of risks of addictions. Sociocultural aspects that related to the lives of adolescents don’t work alone as an increasing factor. The Yale study notes that: “a neurodevelopmental stage common to virtually everyone regardless of genetic make-up confers enhanced neurobiological vulnerability to addiction.”
- Teens who went into treatment to get help for their addictions had their behaviors analyzed. It seems what was considered to be “out of control” behavior was actually just adolescent behavior… results of a developing brain.
Do some of these behaviors that make teens at risk for addiction sound like your child’s issues?