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How Environmental Influences Affect Drug Addiction

How Environmental Influences Affect Drug Addiction

Drug addiction is a complex disorder characterized by compulsive substance use despite negative consequences.  However, addiction isn’t just a physical issue.  It encompasses a range of mental, emotional, and environmental factors as well.  

The physical aspect of addiction is the body’s reliance on a substance.  It is evidenced by withdrawal symptoms that occur when use of the substance is reduced or stopped.  

Mental and emotional aspects of addiction vary with each person.  Some people use drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate mental and emotional issues such as depression, low self-esteem, trauma, or grief.  

Understanding the Role of Environment in Addiction

Environmental influences also play a significant role in substance use, according to the National Library of Medicine.  So, let’s look at some of the ways the environment can alter the path their lives should have taken.  

According to researchers, 3 specific factors contribute to substance abuse the most.  Those factors are:

  1. Family discord or dysfunction.
  2. Peer influences.
  3. Easy access to drugs or alcohol.

We will explore these factors in more detail to further understand how environment and addiction often go hand-in-hand: 

#1.  Family discord or dysfunction.  

Most families struggle with issues such as conflict and discord occasionally.  But, when these problems become the everyday norm, one or more family members may turn to substance use as an escape tool.  Experts agree that most people with addictions come from dysfunctional families.  

Characteristics of risky environments that can foster substance use:

  • One or both parents use drugs or alcohol.  Or, the parent may be guilty of overworking, gambling, and overeating.  These behaviors can have a negative influence on other family members, especially young children and teens.  As a result, they begin to see these behaviors as normal and may mimic their parents’ indulgence.  Furthermore, children in this type of environment are often abused and neglected which is also a factor in substance use.
  • Violence or the threat of violence is the primary means of discipline or control. Children in these situations live in fear, suffer self-blame, and feel that they deserve the punishment.  These children may begin drug or alcohol use at a very young age and continue the substance use into adulthood.
  • The parents don’t provide basic physical care for their children.  These parents are also depriving their children of adequate emotional support as well.  This lack of physical and emotional support can cause a child to feel depressed, have low-self esteem, or act out to get attention.  Some will turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to feel good.
  • One or both parents have authoritarian control over their children.  They force the children to adhere to specific beliefs regarding religion, politics, or finances.  Many children from this kind of environment try to exert free will by experimenting with drugs or alcohol at a young age.

#2.  Peer Influences.    

The relationship between peer pressure and addiction is undeniable.  In fact, in the past 20 years, research on this topic has steadily increased.  The resulting studies confirm the role of peer influence in a person doing something they would not have done otherwise.

Teens or young adults are more likely to succumb to peer pressure when it comes from close friends.  Peer pressure can cause hazardous short-term and long-term drug or alcohol use.  For example, some teens can try drugs or alcohol once or twice without becoming frequent users.  However, others are hooked after the first few tries and continue using the substances into adulthood.

#3.  Easy access to drugs or alcohol.

Studies show that proximity to drugs or alcohol is a significant factor in substance use and addiction.  For instance, people in low-income neighborhoods are often subjected to an abundance of drugs and alcohol daily.  But, people living in upscale neighborhoods are exposed to the substances frequently also. 

Also, it’s not unusual to find prescription painkillers, cocaine, or alcohol easily available in or around some homes regardless of social or economic status.  This is especially true in family homes where elderly grandparents are being cared for.  Many grandparents have a variety of addictive prescription meds nearby.  The medications are often sitting on the kitchen cabinet, on the bedside table, or in the bathroom medicine cabinet.  Someone with a substance use problem can easily steal the drugs to get high or to sell.

Drugs and alcohol are easily available at school, work, the mall, on the streets, or at home.  Also, some neighborhoods are more likely to have easy access to drugs and alcohol than others.  Of course, all cities and towns have certain areas that abound with street dealers.  So, if someone wants to get high, they can find what they are looking for at any time.

Treatment for Addiction at Cycles of Change Recovery

Environmental influences affect addiction in so many ways.  It’s far more concerning than ever before as over 20 million Americans struggle with addictions today.  Equally disturbing is the fact that overdoses are now the #1 cause of accidental death in our nation.  More than 93,000 fatal overdoses occurred in the US last year.  

At Cycles of Change Recovery, our goal is to help bring those statistics down and save lives.  We can reach that goal by providing the highest level of affordable, evidence-based addiction treatment for those who seek our services. 

If you would like to know more about our programs, please contact our Palmdale, CA facility today.  One of our representatives will be happy to talk to you and recommend a customized treatment plan for you or your loved one.  

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