Posts Tagged ‘children’

Reducing the risk of drug addiction

We can influence some of the risk factors for addiction, but not all of them.  With alcohol addiction (alcoholism), about half of the risk is due to genetic makeup. This leaves the other half to be determined by environmental factors.

Parent who give strong and consistent anti-drug messages to their children help reduce their risk for addiction, while overly permissive or overly authoritarian parenting styles increase their risk. Involving children in drug use rituals, like fetching beers or mixing drinks, increases the risk of earlier experimentation and thus the risk of addiction.  The younger a child is when he or she begins drug experimentation, the more likely it is that addiction will develop.

Children of parents who divorce have higher risks of alcohol and drug use, and high levels of conflict in the family home increases risk for drug experimentation and addiction. Older siblings can have a strong influence on their younger brothers and sisters, both in positive and negative ways. Older siblings can reduce their younger sibling’s risk by endorsing and enacting anti-drug attitudes, or can increase their younger siblings’ risk by using drugs and being permissive toward drug use by their younger siblings. In some cases, sibling influence may be stronger than parental influence.

Outside of the home, peer group use of drugs and alcohol is one of the strongest predictors of drug use by an adolescent. With younger children, parents have more influence over drug experimentation and addiction, but in older adolescents, peers are usually the stronger influence.

School experiences can either increase or decrease risk: academic failure increases risk of drug use, as can an attitude that school is unimportant. Conversely, performing well in school decreases the risk of developing addiction, and having friends who support anti-drug attitudes can be a protective factor.

Children with high levels of participation in religious activities have lower rates of drug addiction.

Young adults with after school jobs have higher rates of addiction, likely because they have more disposable income, and come into contact with older people who already use drugs.

When we know facts such as these, we can make better choices about regulations affecting access to drugs and alcohol in our communities.


  • Jean Kinney, Loosening the Grip: A Handbook of Alcohol Information, (Boston, McGraw-Hill, 2009) p 478
  • Richard K. Ries, David A. Fiellin, Shannon C. Miller, and Richard Saitz, Principles of Addiction Medicine, 4th ed. (Philadelphia, Lippincott, Williams, and Wilkins, 2009) ch.99, pp1383-1389.