substance use disorder

What Factors Make Individuals More Likely to Develop Substance Use Disorders?

Published on April 22, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Substance use disorders (SUDs) to drugs or alcohol do not discriminate. No matter what age, sex, income level, or geographic location, SUDs are a pervasive issue in our society.

However, the more research conducted that examines addictions to drugs or alcohol, the more we may understand who is most at risk of developing a SUD. There are many factors that have been shown to lead to a higher risk of developing one of these disorders.

Poor family and home life, occupational struggles, academic underperformance, mental health issues, as well as certain hereditary markers for SUDs all have proven to be high-risk groups for the development of SUDs.


Troubles at Home

One major factor in the possible development of a SUD involves one’s home and family life. Home is meant to be a safe space, where one can relax, wind down, and enjoy quality time with those closest. Having a safe place is essential to healthy development for everyone.

Therefore, if one grows up in an unsafe or unhappy home, they may pursue the use of drugs or alcohol as a means to escape their family dysfunction. Furthermore, if parents engage in substance use, there is a higher likeliness that children will follow those negative behaviors.


When struggles are allowed to permeate throughout the family unit, it is a common thing to see unhealthy coping mechanisms develop, one of which is the use of substances as a means of escape. In the case of first responders, the stressful nature of their occupation can lead to that presenting itself in home life, causing further struggle.


Occupational Stressors

Furthermore, having difficulties and frustrations at work, such as no opportunities for advancement — or in the case of many first responders, frequent traumatic experiences — it is likely that a mental health disorder is able to manifest itself in an individual.

PTSD specifically is one of the most common diagnoses for first responders, and those with PTSD are classified as being a high-risk group for developing a SUD. PTSD leads to individuals seeking an alternative means of coping with the day-to-day struggles, and drugs and alcohol are often the things that fit the bill perfectly. 


Another aspect of the occupational stress that occurs is the heightened mental state that is required in order to be effective as a first responder. Eight or more hours a day of being in a high-stress environment is a recipe for the development of a substance use disorder.

A drink here to relax, a pill there to ease the pain or fall asleep, and slowly but surely, these once occasional means of winding down from a high-intensity workplace have the potential to metastasize into a more serious issue.


Mental Health Issues

Issues with mental health may be hereditary, or they may develop due to environmental and social influences. Individuals with mental illness may not receive proper medical care, and therefore their mental health suffers.

Furthermore, untreated problems with anxiety, depression, PTSD, or ADHD create an environment in which the sufferer is more likely to develop an addiction by using drugs or alcohol to alleviate symptoms. The idea of self-medication is common among those who suffer from SUDs. 


Genetic Predisposition

An additional area of interest for researchers is the role that genetics plays in the development of a SUD. There is evidence that suggests that substance use disorders may be hereditary, passed down to children through parents suffering from the same issue.

Everyone’s biology is different, and some seem to be predisposed to addictive behaviors and mental health issues. Whether it is nature (the genetic information passed down to parents) or nurture (addictive behaviors passed on to children through their parents), addictive tendencies present in family members have shown to be a risk factor for developing a SUD.

This is evidenced by the way that one person may use a substance once and never again, while another individual tries it once and continues to seek it out even to their own detriment.


Regardless of what may be the cause of a substance use disorder, it is important that when the symptoms of one present themselves, they are addressed. Whether this means therapy, SUD treatment, or a combination of the two, these issues are a matter of life and death. There is hope for recovery, and we hope you find the solution best suited for your needs.


Do you, or someone you know, need help? If you believe you or your loved one may be at risk of developing a SUD, please contact us today. The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses. We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers, and that existing stigma may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially difficult. Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career or a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships.

By taking a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction, Simple Recovery makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing. First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their communities, and at Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we believe in dedicating our time and expertise to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490