Will you get addicted? Signs of drug abuse

Everyone wants to know if they can become addictedEveryone wants to know if they, or someone they love will get addicted to alcohol or drugs.

• Parents want to know if their children are likely to become addicts, especially if there is a family history of addiction.

• Teens wonder if trying a drug will lead to a life of crime and shame.

So what are the signs of drug abuse?!

Unfortunately, I have to start with the answer you probably don’t want to hear: no single factor can be said to fully predict substance abuse. Instead, the equation can be thought of as an interplay of risk-factors and protective-factors.

Having family members with alcohol- or drug-abuse problem is an example of a risk-factor. The more risk-factors a person has the more likely it is that person will become addicted. Some risk factors interact to make the likelihood of addiction much greater than either factors alone.

Protective-factors are life events or experiences that reduce or moderate the effect of exposure to risk factors. Some examples of protective factors are: parental-monitoring, self-control, positive relationships, academic competence, anti-drug use policies, and neighborhood attachment.

Risk Factors Vs. Protective factors – An implicit battle

There are five categories of risk and protective factors including individual, school, peer, community and family. Examples of protective factors within the individual category include social skills and responsiveness, emotional stability, positive sense of self, problem solving skills, flexibility, and resilience.

Other aspects of the individual category include the gender and ethnicity of a person. Men are generally more likely to become addicted (likely because they are less prone for internalizing issues like depression). American-Indians are genetically more sensitive to the effects of alcohol, while about 20% of the Jewish population may have genetic variations that protect them against alcoholism. Overall, estimates regarding the genetic influence on addiction risk range from 40% to 80%. Much of that genetic risk lies in changes related to the functioning of neurotransmitters that play a part in the development of addiction such as GABA, serotonin, dopamine, NMDA. Those with mental disorders of all types are at an increased risk for developing an addiction.

Some factors, like stress, can be considered part of multiple categories. Individual variability in stress response (via the HPA Axis) would be part of the individual category, while levels of environmental stress can be part of the other four categories.

questioning-terrierThe home and school life of a child (part of the non-individual categories) can play a large role as either risk-, or protective-factors. If a child sees elders using drugs, they may view drugs as harmless, but children who are well prepared by their parents may better resist peer-pressure to use drugs. As we stated before, the earlier a person begins to use drugs, the more susceptible they are to harmless effects on brain structures and other bodily functions.

Certain methods of using drugs can also be considered risk-factors. Smoking or injecting a drug causes it to be more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, producing an almost instantaneous high when compared with eating or drinking a drug. However, the quick rush of euphoria may soon dissipate and leave the user feeling the “rebound effect” making them crave the high again. This quick, short lasting, cycle is believed to encourage the user to want to the drug again in hopes of reaching that high.

Overall there is no one thing that can predict or protect against addiction. Instead, a combination of factors are always at play and the more aware a person is of these factors the more able they are to protect themselves.

Co-authored by: Jamie Felzer






3 responses to “Will you get addicted? Signs of drug abuse”

  1. Risk and Protection

    Back in the mid-90’s I worked for a not for profit alcohol and drug abuse council and I read the book “Communities that Care” which happens to lay out a model of Risk and Protection that can be duplicated. In fact, the authors and/or their affiliates will be glad to travel to your area (for a hefty price) and teach you how to implement this philosophy in your community. The ideas that form the foundation for Risk and Protection are wonderfully inspiring – at leas they were to me; so much so that I wrote a grant that would fund my position and allow me to get the ball rolling in my community. While we maid great strides with it, I ultimately moved on to fulfill another dream and I always wondered what would have happened had this model been fully implemented in our community. Interestingly, I have heard little about the Risk and Protection Model in the last ten to fifteen years and I could never understand why. The whole Idea that children could be taught certain things like resilience to increase their protective factors just made such good sense to me. I would urge anyone that is interested to pick up the book “Communities that Care” (I think I ordered it through Walden Books back then) as it is well worth reading. Thank you for touching on this great topic. Peter

  2. As a recovering heroin addict and addiction blogger myself, I was almost as impressed with your site as I was with Doctor Adi Jaffe story. I would really like to collaborate with All About Addiction with my Addicts Not Anonymous in some capacity. I will be in touch.

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