What drives people to substance use and addiction?

Drug use and abuse by an individual or a group is rarely the result of a single factor. Addiction doesn’t just appear overnight in a person’s life, and the factors that prepare the ground for its appearance often date back to their childhood. The foundations on which we will later construct out values, principles and opinions are laid during our early years. Childhood is a time of profound change, and the influences to which a child is exposed can determine their later development. An individual’s experience of these first years of life is determined by their family, school and broader social context. Research has shown that there are a number of complex and interrelated factors which can play a role in an individual using, abusing and becoming addicted to substances. These factors can be divided into three main categories, the relative importance of which varies from person to person:

– The family, social and cultural environment in which they spend their childhood
– Biological factors and individual character
– The effect of the substance

Factors which increase the likelihood of substance use
– Tolerance of substance abuse
– The availability of substances
– Social exclusion
– Alienation
– The absence of social support structures
– The consumerist way of life
– Pressure and stress
– A lack of job opportunities
– Spending time with substance users
– A chaotic family environment
– Parental substance use and abuse
– A lack of emotional bonds within the family
– Violence, neglect, serious family rows
– Ineffectual parental supervision
– Unrealistic expectations
– Emotional pain
– Loneliness
– Low self-esteem
– The absence of limits
– Uncertainty with regard to values, goals and priorities
– A lack of life skills (decision-making, self-control, responsibility, resistance, assertiveness etc.)
– A lack of communication
– The inability to handle intense emotions and disappointments
– The inability to curb impulsiveness
– Boredom
– The search for thrills and satisfaction
– Using substances in pre-adolescence
– Chronic poor performance at school
– Antisocial behaviour at an early age

Factors that make an individual less likely to use substances
– Personal skills (self-confidence and self-esteem, self-control, being able to recognize, express and handle intense emotions, setting goals etc.)
– Social skills (communication, cooperation, resistance, responsibility, the ability to solve problems and take decisions, critical thinking, social sensitivity etc.)
– Security and stability
– Emotional stability
– Having adult friends as well as friends of the same age: positive role models
– Secure family bonds
– Individual and family support networks
– The existence of goals and ideals that give life vision
– Powerful bonds with socialization institutions like the family and school
– The ability to join in and be accepted
– A commitment to education
– A good academic performance at school and participation in extra curricula activities
– Opportunities to participate with other young people in local community activities
– Financial and social stability
– Reduced access to substances

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