What Are Early Risk Factors for Substance Abuse Disorder?

Teen struggling

Substance use disorder (SUD) is a drug use disorder involving cravings for a drug, recurrent use of a drug despite negative affects on work, school, etc., preoccupation with use of a drug, withdrawal symptoms when not using, and more. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 20.2 million adults in the United States experience an SUD each year. Recognizing the risk factors of an SUD can assist families in preventing their child from developing SUD later on in life.  

A 2017 study published in the journal Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience provided insights into the risk factors for SUD that increase vulnerability from recreational use to addiction. The following are two major risk factors that can give a warning to the development of an SUD:

Taking substances at an early age

Previous research and evolution has shown that adolescence is a maturational period in which hormones are released and puberty begins. Science has shown that adolescents are reaching puberty approximately 3 years earlier than they did 100 years ago; with this comes a wide gap between cognitive and reproductive maturity. As adolescents’ brains are further developing, they may experience an early initiation to risk behaviors. Substance use can spark an unhealthy pattern for impulsivity, self-medication, and drug use that is deemed socially acceptable by other peers.

Drug use during a sensitive period

A well-known fact is that adolescents are typically able to better retain information than adults for second languages, musical instruments, sports and more. This is because adolescents enter a sensitivity period in which they become more responsive to their environment and can more readily pick up behaviors. Drug use during this time can have a long-term impact on their neural development, placing them at risk for a SUD later on in life.

If you’re currently in recovery for an SUD, speak with your therapist about these two risk factors to determine if this may have influenced your drug use patterns over time. Preventative measures should certainly be taken if you have an adolescent who has dabbled in substance use; behavioral interventions, therapy, exercise, meditation, martial arts, mindfulness training, yoga, and social support have all been shown to help prevent the development of a SUD.

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery center. We offer dual diagnosis treatment, so if you are experiencing both substance abuse and symptoms of a mental disorder, call us today at 888-743-0490 so that we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.