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What environmental factors increase the risk of addiction?

Environmental factors are those related to the family, school, and neighborhood. Factors that can increase a person's risk include the following:

Home and Family. The home environment, especially during childhood, is a very important factor. Parents or older family members who use drugs or misuse alcohol, or who break the law, can increase children's risk of future drug problems.29Peer and School. Friends and other peers can have an increasingly strong influence during the teen years. Teens who use drugs can sway even those without risk factors to try drugs for the first time. Struggling in school or having poor social skills can put a child at further risk for using or becoming addicted to drugs.30

What other factors increase the risk of addiction?

Early Use. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, research shows that the earlier a person begins to use drugs, the more likely he or she is to develop serious problems.31 This may be due to the harmful effect that drugs can have on the developing brain.32 It also may result from a mix of early social and biological risk factors, including lack of a stable home or family, exposure to physical or sexual abuse, genes, or mental illness. Still, the fact remains that early use is a strong indicator of problems ahead, including addiction.How the drug is taken. Smoking a drug or injecting it into a vein increases its addictive potential.33,34 Both smoked and injected drugs enter the brain within seconds, producing a powerful rush of pleasure. However, this intense high can fade within a few minutes. Scientists believe this starkly felt contrast drives some people to repeated drug taking in an attempt to recapture the fleeting pleasurable state.📷Images of Brain Development in health Children and Teens (Ages 5-20)

As the brain matures, experiences prune excess neural connections while strengthening those that are used more often. Many scientists think that this process contributes to the steady reduction in gray matter volume seen during adolescence (depicted as the yellow to blue transition in the figure). As environmental forces help determine which connections will wither and which will thrive, the brain circuits that emerge become more efficient. However, this is a process that can cut both ways because not all tasks are desirable. The environment is like an artist who creates a sculpture by chipping away excess marble; and just like bad artists can produce bad art, environments with negative factors (like drugs, malnutrition, bullying, or sleep deprivation) can lead to efficient but potentially harmful circuits that conspire against a person's well-being.

The brain continues to develop into adulthood and undergoes dramatic changes during adolescence.

One of the brain areas still maturing during adolescence is the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that allows people to assess situations, make sound decisions, and keep emotions and desires under control. The fact that this critical part of a teen's brain is still a work in progress puts them at increased risk for making poor decisions, such as trying drugs or continuing to take them. Introducing drugs during this period of development may cause brain changes that have profound and long-lasting consequences.


Environmental factors are those related to the family, school, and neighborhood. Factors that can increase a person's risk include the following:

Home and Family. The home environment, especially during childhood, is a very important factor. Parents or older family members who use drugs or misuse alcohol, or who break the law, can increase children's risk of future drug problems.29Peer and School. Friends and other peers can have an increasingly strong influence during the teen years. Teens who use drugs can sway even those without risk factors to try drugs for the first time. Struggling in school or having poor social skills can put a child at further risk for using or becoming addicted to drugs.30


What other factors increase the risk of addiction?

Early Use. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, research shows that the earlier a person begins to use drugs, the more likely he or she is to develop serious problems.31 This may be due to the harmful effect that drugs can have on the developing brain.32 It also may result from a mix of early social and biological risk factors, including lack of a stable home or family, exposure to physical or sexual abuse, genes, or mental illness. Still, the fact remains that early use is a strong indicator of problems ahead, including addiction.How the drug is taken. Smoking a drug or injecting it into a vein increases its addictive potential.33,34 Both smoked and injected drugs enter the brain within seconds, producing a powerful rush of pleasure. However, this intense high can fade within a few minutes. Scientists believe this starkly felt contrast drives some people to repeated drug taking in an attempt to recapture the fleeting pleasurable state.📷Images of Brain Development in health Children and Teens (Ages 5-20)

As the brain matures, experiences prune excess neural connections while strengthening those that are used more often. Many scientists think that this process contributes to the steady reduction in gray matter volume seen during adolescence (depicted as the yellow to blue transition in the figure). As environmental forces help determine which connections will wither and which will thrive, the brain circuits that emerge become more efficient. However, this is a process that can cut both ways because not all tasks are desirable. The environment is like an andergoes dramatic changes during adolescence.

One of the brain areas still maturing during adolescence is the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that allows people to assess situations, make sound decisions, and keep emotions and desires under control. The fact that this critical part of a teen's brain is still a work in progress puts them at increased risk for making poor decisions, such as trying drugs or continuing to take them. Introducing drugs during this period of development may cause brain changes that have profound and long-lasting consequences.rtist who creates a sculpture by chipping away excess marble; and just like bad artists can produce bad art, environments with negative factors (like drugs, malnutrition, bullying, or sleep deprivation) can lead to efficient but potentially harmful circuits that conspire against a person's well-being.


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