Could This Have Been Prevented? Risk Factors of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

There are Risk Factors of Drug and Alcohol Abuse can effect not only you but also your family

As a caregiver to someone with an addiction to drug or alcohol, there are likely many thoughts that run through your mind regarding your loved one’s issue. Was there some sign that they had a problem? Could it have been prevented? What red flags did I miss? Questions like this are normal.Virtually every parent or caregiver asks themselves when they realize their child or loved one has substance abuse issues. Although answering these questions will not turn back the clock on the addiction process or prevent it from being part of your life, understanding the factors that could have led to your loved one’s issue is oftentimes freeing.

Understanding Risk Factors and Protective Factors:

To better understand risk factors for addiction, it is important to also appreciate the impact of protective factors. As a means of example, consider your child’s life as a budget ledger. Every entry into their life that falls under a protective factor leads them farther from the risk of drug abuse and is a positive entry.Conversely, every entry that is a risk factor leads them closer to an addictive lifestyle and is considered a deduction. Therefore, in most cases addiction is a result of a life that is high on risk factors and low on protective risk factors. Below you will find an explanation of both of these elements:

Protective Factors (factors that reduce the risk of drug addiction in children):
  • Positive community or neighborhood environment.
  • Parental monitoring.
  • Regular communication about the dangers of drugs.
  • Involvement in extracurricular activities or in religious organizations.

Common Risk Factors for Drug and Alcohol Abuse:

Negative Community Environment:

This factor comes into play when a child grows up around drugs. This can mean living in a neighborhood or household where drug use is accepted and prevalent.

Drug Availability:

When kids have easy access to drugs either at school, home on in their neighborhood, they are at a greater risk for developing an addiction.

Parental Alcoholism:

According to studies conducted by the University of North Carolina and Arizona State University, there is a direct correlation between the presence of parental alcoholism and the development of maladaptive behaviors in children. What that means in laymen’s terms is a parent being an alcoholic, puts their child at a greater risk for developing not only an alcohol problem but also an addiction to drugs, according to this study.

Even if a parent doesn’t have an addiction themselves, if addiction is present in the family, this can indicate a genetic predisposition to addiction, which is also a risk factor. Therefore, the presence of any addiction in the family, even in prior generations, is a warning sign.

Lack of Parental Involvement:

lack of parental involvementAnother factor that can increase the risk of addiction in a child or teenager is a lack of parental involvement. After all, keeping up with where a kid is, who they are with and what they are doing are all ways to keep them out of trouble.When this involvement isn’t present for whatever reason, the child is allowed too much freedom, which in turn can lead to the development of an addiction.

Risk Factors, but not Guarantees

The risk factors listed above are some of the most commonly known factors that can lead to drug abuse. Just because they one or more of them are present, doesn’t mean that a child will necessarily become an addict. On the other hand, the absence of risk factors does not necessarily ensure a drug free existence.However, in general, these factors, both risk and protective often do correlate with the development of a drug and alcohol addiction. Remember, this information should not be considered as a reprimand for past parental mistakes, but should be instead considered a glimpse into the mind of an addict.

  1. What are Risk Factors and Protective Factors?, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Last updated Oct. 2003,
  2. New Study Shows That Parental Alcoholism Creates Risk Factors for Substance Abuse in Emerging Adults That Extend Beyond Alcoholism, American Psychological Association, January 23, 2006,

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