Drug abuse can lead to addiction, a serious and potentially fatal dependence upon drugs or other harmful substances. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease, which according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), changes the structure in the brain and how it works. While taking drugs at any age is conducive to addiction, NIDA reports taking drugs at an early age is more likely to lead to abuse.
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Several reasons exist which explain why people use drugs. Curiosity and peer pressure are among the greatest reasons people choose to try drugs. Because the brains of adolescents are still developing, specifically the pre-frontal cortex (area of the brain that enables decision-making and supports self-control), the risk of children making poor decisions increases. In addition, peer pressure plays a role, further escalating the risks. Children whose grades are poor or have family members who abuse drugs or engage in criminal activities, particularly parents or other elders, are more susceptible to substance abuse. However, even those without these risk factors can be swayed by peers to use drugs, according to the NIDA.
Stress and depression are major contributing factors to drug abuse. The NIDA reports many people begin using drugs to feel better, particularly those with social anxiety, stress related disorders and depression. In addition, individuals with these disorders are more likely to relapse after a period of sobriety. Learning stress management techniques and receiving proper support are helpful for those with stress and depression risks. In some cases, medical interventions like prescription anti-depressants are beneficial coping tools.
Home and Family
Family members are chief influencers of a person's behavior, offering support or negatively affecting the decisions and lifestyle of an individual. The impact of the home environment is generally most important in childhood, according to NIDA. In addition, NIDA reports scientists estimate genetic factors may account for 40 to 60 percent of an individual’s vulnerability to drug abuse, which proves family plays a role in both biological and environmental factors that may determine a person’s risk of drug abuse. Parents who monitor their children’s behavior and support positive friendships can help prevent drug abuse. Resources are available to help parents establish connections with their children that may hinder drug abuse.