Social and environmental Factors

Although using substances at any age can lead to addiction, research shows that the earlier a person begins to use, the more likely he or she is to develop serious problems.

   

  We know that there are factors that make it more or less likely that a person will misuse or become addicted to substances, like alcohol, marijuana, or prescription medications. Some of these things we are born with, such as genetics; others influence us, such as parental attitudes, peer attitudes, marketing, and availability.

 

Environmental Factors
  • Home and Family.  Parent attitudes and behavior toward alcohol, marijuana, drugs, crime and violence influence the attitudes and behavior of their children, raising the risk in families where parents use illegal drugs, are heavy users of alcohol or marijuana, or are tolerant of children's use. The risk is further increased if parents involve children in their own drug or alcohol-using behavior - for example, asking the child to light a parent's cigarette or get the parent a beer from the fridge.

 

  • In Jefferson County, 79% of 11th-grade students perceive parental disapproval of alcohol use, 83% of marijuana use, and 94% of using prescription medication not prescribed to the person (2015 Healthy Teens Survey).

 

  • Peer and School. We know that friends and acquaintances can have an increasingly strong influence on youth. Drug-using friends can tempt even those without risk factors to try drugs for the first time. Academic failure or poor social skills can put a child at further risk.

 

In Jefferson County:

  • 55.1% of 8th and 11th-grade students feel it would be wrong or very wrong to consume one or two drinks of an alcoholic beverage nearly every day (compared to 68% of students statewide)*

  • 50% of 8th and 11th-grade students feel it would be wrong or very wrong for their peers to use marijuana.

  • 77% of 8th and 11th-grade students feel it would be wrong or very wrong for their peers to use prescription medications not prescribed to them.

  • 69% of 8th and 11th-grade students feel it would be wrong or very wrong for their peers to smoke cigarettes.**

 

*   2014 Student Wellness Survey - Jefferson County

 

** 2015 Healthy Teens Survey - Jefferson County

 

  • Opportunities for positive youth development build strengths and attributes that can be a buffer to youth substance use. In Jefferson County, only 53% of 11th-grade students met the state benchmark for positive youth development, compared to 62% statewide.

 

Biological Factors

  • Scientists estimate that genetic factors account for between 40 and 60 percent of a person’s vulnerability to addiction; this includes the effects of environmental factors on the function and expression of a person’s genes. A person’s stage of development and other medical conditions they may have are also factors. Adolescents and people with mental disorders are at greater risk of drug abuse and addiction than the general population.

 

Other Factors

  • Age of Initiation. Although using substances at any age can lead to addiction, research shows that the earlier a person begins to use, the more likely he or she is to develop serious problems. This may reflect the harmful effect that drugs can have on the developing brain. One of the brain areas still maturing during adolescence is the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that enables us to assess situations, make sound decisions, and keep our emotions and desires under control. The fact that this critical part of an adolescent’s brain is still a work in progress puts youth at increased risk for making poor decisions. Introducing drugs, including recreational marijuana,  during this period of development may cause brain changes that have profound, long-lasting and permanent consequences.