Risk Factors for Alcoholism & Drug Addiction


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Drug and alcohol addiction develops over time, but it often comes with copious warning signs before casual use grows into full-blown addiction. Even before a person uses, there are many signs that could indicate a person is more likely to fall into abusive patterns of drug use. While risk factors don’t necessarily mean that addiction is inevitable, it’s important for individuals to be aware of their risk level so their behavior will be more informed if they choose to engage in drug use. Watch our slide show for information and statistics about drug and alcohol abuse risk factors. For more information about seeking help with addiction recovery for yourself or a loved one, contact Hillside.

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Risk Factors for Alcoholism & Drug Addiction

  2. 2. INTRODUCTION According to the U.S. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 70% of American adults always drink at low-risk levels or do not drink at all. 35% of Americans do not consume alcohol. Also, about 28% of American adults drink at levels that put them at risk for alcohol dependence and alcoholrelated problems. In 2010, there was an estimated 22.6 million Americans over the age of 12 that were current or former illicit drug users, and used within the last 30 days. This equates to about 8.9% of the population aged 12 or older. The most commonly abused drug (other than alcohol) in the United States by individuals over the age of 12 is Marijuana, followed by prescription painkillers, cocaine and hallucinogens. The risk factors for alcohol dependence & drug addiction include the following: AGE (ADOLESCENCE & ELDERLY) GENDER FAMILY HISTORY & ABUSE RACE & ETHNICITY PSYCHIATRIC & BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS
  3. 3. AGE (ADOLESCENCE) Anyone who begins drinking or using drugs in adolescence is at risk for developing an addiction. The earlier a person begins, the greater the risk. • About 50% of under-age Americans have used alcohol. • About 2 million people ages 12 - 20 are considered heavy drinkers, and 4.4 million are binge drinkers. • A survey of over 40,000 adults indicated that among those who began drinking before age 14, nearly half had become alcoholic dependent by the age of 21. In contrast, only 9% of people who began drinking after the age of 21 developed alcoholism. • In 2009, 10% of youth aged 12 to 17 were current illicit drug users. • In 2010, almost 3% of 12th graders had used cocaine in the past year, 8% had used the opiate Vicodin, 5% had used inhalants, nearly 5% had used "Ecstasy," and about 1.5% had used anabolic steroids.
  4. 4. AGE (ELDERLY) Although alcoholism usually develops in early adulthood, the elderly are not exempt. In fact, doctors may overlook alcoholism when evaluating elderly patients, mistakenly attributing the signs of alcohol abuse to the normal effects of the aging process. Recent census data estimates that nearly 35 million people in the United States are 65 years or older. Substance abuse among those 60 years and older (including misuse of prescription drugs) currently affects about 17 percent of this population. By 2020, the number of older adults with substance abuse problems is expected to double.
  5. 5. GENDER The rates of drug abuse are currently lower in women than in men. Nevertheless, the number of women using and abusing prescription and illegal drugs is on the rise. Adult men are 2 to 3 times more likely than women to have a drug abuse/dependence disorder, but this current gender difference may reflect differences in opportunity, rather than vulnerability to drug use. In 2010, as in prior years, the rate of illicit drug use among persons aged 12 or older was 11.2% for males and 6.8% for females. Most alcoholics are men, but the incidence of alcoholism in women has been increasing over the past 30 years. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about 17% of men and 8% of women meet criteria for alcohol dependence at some point in their lives. Studies suggest that women are more vulnerable than men to many of the long-term consequences of alcoholism. Women are more likely than men to develop alcoholic hepatitis and to die from cirrhosis, and women are more vulnerable to the brain cell damage caused by alcohol.
  6. 6. FAMILY HISTORY & ABUSE Such adolescent users are also more apt to underestimate the effects of drinking and using drugs and may make judgment errors. Individuals who were abused as children have a higher risk for substance abuse later in life. People at highest risk for early drinking or drug use are those with a history of abuse, family violence, depression, and stressful life events. People with a family history of alcoholism and drug addiction are also more likely to begin using before the age of 20 and to become addicted. In one study, 72% of women and 27% of men with substance abuse disorders reported physical or sexual abuse or both. They also had worse response to treatment than those without such a history.
  7. 7. RACE/ETHNICITY Overall, there is no difference in alcoholic prevalence among African-Americans, Caucasians, and Hispanic-Americans. Some population groups, however, such as Native Americans, have an increased incidence of alcoholism while others, such as Jewish and Asian Americans, have a lower risk. Although the biological or cultural causes of such different risks are not known, certain people in these population groups may have a genetic susceptibility or invulnerability to alcoholism because of the way they metabolize alcohol. 2012 Rate of Substance Abuse (ages 12 or older) American Indians/Alaska Natives 21.8% Two or More Races 10.1% African Americans 8.9% Hispanics 8.8% Whites 8.7% Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders Asians 0.0% 5.4% 3.2% 5.0% 10.0% 15.0% 20.0% 25.0%
  8. 8. BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS Studies indicate that substance abuse is strongly related to impulsive, excitable, and novelty-seeking behavior, and such patterns are established early on. Specifically, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that shares these behaviors, have a higher risk for substance abuse in adulthood. The risk is especially high in children with ADHD and conduct disorder.
  9. 9. PSYCHIATRIC DISORDERS Psychiatric problems can begin either before or after the onset of the addiction. In many cases, alcohol or addiction leads to psychiatric symptoms. 37% of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental illness. Severely depressed or anxious people are at high risk for alcoholism, smoking, and other forms of addiction. Likewise, a large proportion of alcohol-dependent people suffer from an accompanying psychiatric or substance abuse disorder. Either anxiety or depression may increase the risk for self-medication with alcohol. Depression is the most common psychiatric problem in people with alcoholism or substance abuse. Alcohol abuse is very common in patients with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Long-term alcoholism itself may cause chemical changes that produce anxiety and depression. It is not always clear, then, whether people with emotional disorders are self-medicating with alcohol, or whether alcohol itself is producing mood swings.
  10. 10. www.recoverathillside.com (855) 878-8554 Facebook.com/pyramidhillside Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/alcoholism/risk-factors.html http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcoholism/basics/risk-factors/con-20020866 http://www.michaelshouse.com/drug-addiction/the-statistics/ http://www.medicinenet.com/teen_drug_abuse/page2.htm http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_1008.html http://www.hazelden.org/web/public/ade60220.page http://clinicaldepartments.musc.edu/cdap/psyaddiction.htm http://www.helpguide.org/mental/dual_diagnosis.htm