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Risk Factors for Illicit Drug Use Among Young Adults Begin Early in Life

Addictive Drugs
Risk Factors for Illicit Drug Use Among Young Adults Begin Early in Life

Risk Factors for Illicit Drug Use Among Young Adults Begin Early in Life

From the moment a parent holds their newborn in their arms for the first time, their instincts to protect their child from physical and emotional harm begin. During the adolescent and young adult years children are exposed to new friends with new ideas, grapple with their changing body, and form many of their own views on life and survival. It’s usually during these years that they first experiment with drugs.

Much information is available on the warning signs that a child is using drugs, but a new study reveals risk factors that may cause a child to start using those drugs. This study could help parents and doctors prevent the child from developing a lifelong addiction or even prevent them from using the drugs in the first place.

Psychiatrist, Michael Harrington of the Health Sciences Center of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, says that the strongest risk factors of substance abuse were childhood trauma or abuse, a family history of use, and mood disorders. Harrington, along with his co-authors published their findings in a recent issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

The Study

Harrington and his colleagues studied information from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a mental health longitudinal study on adults. They examined the illicit drug use of 34,000 people for three years.

The research team found that young adults, ages 18 to 29 years, were the largest group to use illicit drugs. Almost half of those studied had used cannabis and a little over 38 percent had tried opioids.

Harrington stated the most prevalent risk factors that he recognized in this group were childhood trauma, family history, and mood disorders.

Childhood Trauma

Harrington and his researchers found that children who had suffered emotional and physical trauma were predisposed to later using illicit drugs. Children who had been mentally or physically abused turn to the drugs as an escape from their trauma.

Family History

Children whose parents or siblings have drug or alcohol problems are more likely to have a drug or alcohol problems. If children grow up in an environment where illicit drugs seem commonplace, then they will not see the harm in using them. Children whose families have a criminal history are more likely to end up using drugs, too.

Keeping in positive communication with a child is very important in helping them stay away from illicit drug use. Parents who have no rules or restrictions for their child or parents who are severely strict on their child tend to have children who are more likely to use illicit drugs. An open, communicative, supportive parent can help guide their child to make good choices by listening to them and talking with them.

Mood Disorders

Children who suffered from depression and anxiety were also at greater risk for using illicit drugs. This last indicator had slightly less impact than the previous factors. Harrington and his team stated that the people who already had anxiety issues more often consumed alcohol than took illicit drugs.

Harrington hopes his research will help both parents and doctors. He hopes to help parents understand risk factors and doctors understand how factors related to illicit drug use develop into a drug abuse problem. With this information, doctors can provide services to parents and families that may protect them from beginning a difficult life of drug addiction.


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