Risk And Protective Factors

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Risk And Protective Factors
Risk And Protective Factors
Video: Risk And Protective Factors
Video: Risk and protective factors 2023, February

Risk and protective factors

There is no such thing as “a typical addict personality”. Different things come together in the development of an addiction. Certain factors, eg a genetic component, addictions in the family as well as personal and social difficulties are considered “risk factors”, others have a positive effect. However, people with risk factors do not automatically become dependent. Various approaches try to explain the development of addiction. It is based on complex relationships that include substance properties, biological, psychological and social factors (environmental factors).


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  • Factors of dependency development
  • Protection mechanisms

Factors of dependency development

The factors and their interaction are individually different. In the emergence and development of dependence on substances, the following play a role:

  • the drug (e.g. effect, dependency potential, availability),
  • the individual (e.g. genetic factors, learned behavior, self-esteem, frustration tolerance, physical and psychological development),
  • the social environment (e.g. parents and their role model effect, circle of friends, conflict situations).

A development towards addiction depends, among other things, on the drug and its addiction potential, the possibility of receiving and consuming it, and social acceptance. A certain genetic component also plays a role. Drugs intervene in processes in the brain. Many drugs increase the release of dopamine and the activation of the reward system (dopaminergic reward system), so that euphoria is felt through drug use. Glutamate, a stimulating neurotransmitter that is involved in brain functions such as learning and memory, is also associated with addiction disorders (“addictive memory”). Some kind of learned reaction of the body to drug use is believed.

Disorders in personality development can also be closely linked to drug use. In addition, the social environment has an impact on the emergence and development of addiction. The cornerstone for a later development of addiction can already lie in childhood. Certain relationship patterns in families (relationship crises) and / or parenting styles (e.g. lack of boundaries or too strict boundaries) can be involved. Stressful conditions in school, work and leisure etc. are also described in theoretical approaches for the development of addiction. Difficulties in finding one's way in the social system, a lack of social support, a lack of future prospects and the influence of advertising / media and experience, etc. can also have an influence.

In addition to these social factors, genetic stress is also of central importance. For example, children of parents with addictions have a much higher risk of developing a dependency disorder.

Note For information about characteristics of behavioral addictions, see Behavioral Addictions.

Protection mechanisms

Legal (like alcohol or nicotine etc.) and illegal substances (like cannabis, cocaine etc.) can in principle be harmful to everyone. Certain factors can act as "safeguards".

The following factors can "protect" against dependency:

  • Healthy self-esteem, positive self-concept,
  • Parents or legal guardians who use certain intoxicating substances (e.g. alcohol) responsibly - and convey this to their children,
  • early mediation of neutral (non-ideological) information about potential addictive substances - this must take place early, not only in the risk age of adolescents,
  • Understanding of the curiosity of young people even if they are caught experimenting with addictive substances for the first time. Most young people first experience legal addictive substances. The differences between enjoyment and dependence can be pointed out here (in a non-threatening way!),
  • a drug-free family life, social environment without drug consumption (e.g. circle of friends who do not use drugs),
  • good conditions at work / school as well as in the family,
  • good stress processing, problem and conflict resolution skills, good communication skills and a healthy level of frustration tolerance,
  • Leisure behavior that is perceived as fulfilling,
  • Support in dealing with peer pressure and much more

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