Myth of the Addictive Personality: Top 5 Risk Factors for Addiction

Millennial Magazine- risk factors for addiction

When it comes to drug and alcohol use, addiction does not discriminate. Regardless of your background or circumstances, you can fall victim to the firm grasp of addiction, leaving you feeling stuck and out of control. While nearly impossible to determine why some individuals are more susceptible than others, certain risk factors increase the chances of addictive behaviors. Though compounding components increase the chances of addiction, there are ways to avoid and overcome dependence through healthy habits, community resources, and understanding risk factors. 

Read on for the top 5 risk factors for addiction


Many people ask the question: is addiction genetic? Though complicated, the simplified answer is yes. Genetic predisposition, which looks at family history and hereditary traits to determine the chances of addiction, is a risk factor for substance abuse. 

For example, if you have family members that struggle with addictive behaviors, the chances of you experiencing the same tendencies increases. Though people falsely associate cocaine addiction and alcohol dependence with a lack of willpower and faulty morals, chemical imbalances within the brain are far more to blame. In fact, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly half of addiction risk is based on genetics.


Another significant risk factor that plays a role in addiction is your environmental upbringing. Those who grew up surrounded by substance abuse and addiction sometimes fall victim to dependency later in life, unable to break the generational cycle. Additionally, childhood neglect and abuse play a significant part in addictive personalities and dependency, leading many down the path of drug and alcohol abuse as a means of coping. However, even those without long-stemmed trauma can experience substance addiction, with many citing peer pressure or mental illness as noteworthy contributors.

Compounding diagnosis

Another contributor to addictive behaviors is compounded mental diagnoses. Illnesses like depression, anxiety, PTSD, and others can contribute to and provoke addictive personality disorders, causing complex complications down the road. Underlying mental conditions can trigger addictive behaviors, while substance abuse and dependency can intensify psychological disorders, creating a vicious cycle of prolonged use and mental suffering. 

Additionally, chronic illness can also increase your risk of addiction, with many reaching for controlled substances to rectify symptoms and offer relief. Some even form dependencies on doctor-prescribed medications after years of attempted pain relief. Unfortunately, people with chronic pain experience extreme difficulty receiving care, resorting to unhealthy solutions as a last-ditch effort for pain maintenance. 

Use at a young age

While some addicts pick up their substance of choice later in life, others begin using early on, which can significantly increase their chances of prolonged dependency. Though drug and alcohol abuse affects people regardless of age, younger populations can experience stunted mental and physical growth at the hands of addiction. Development halts, dependency flourishes, and breaking unhealthy behaviors becomes increasingly tricky. 

Substance choice

While some dependencies form slowly over long periods, others are fast-paced and all-consuming. Though genetic predisposition to addiction and environmental factors can play a role in the intensity of your dependence, your substance of choice often plays a more significant factor. Harder drugs, like methamphetamines, heroin, and cocaine, are highly addictive and dangerous, causing intense physical and mental side effects after a short period of use. Though other drugs and alcohol can be habit-forming, they tend to progress slowly over time and are more treatable than hard drugs. 

Parting thoughts

Though addiction can strike at any time, there are risk factors that can increase your chances of substance abuse. Your family history, environmental upbringings, and compounding mental illnesses have a tremendous impact on drug and alcohol dependency. However, risk factors aren’t infallible prophecies, and you can overcome your addictive personality with the proper resources and support.

What do you think?

Written by Kara Masterson

Kara Masterson is a freelance writer from West Jordan, Utah. She graduated from the University of Utah and enjoys writing and spending time with her dog, Max.

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