Risk Factors & Protective Factors for Drug-Taking Behavior

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, you'll learn that there are two sides to the coin of drug-taking behavior. On one side, there are risk factors that may cause someone to take drugs, and on the other side, there are protective factors that help a person avoid taking drugs.

Drug-Taking Behavior

A drug is any substance (other than food) that can alter a person's physiological and/or psychological state. In this lesson, however, when I say drug, I'll be specifically talking about the drugs that can be commonly abused, such as cocaine, heroin, and the like.

There are many risk factors for drug-taking behavior. I'm actually pretty certain you can think of a few off the top of your head. But did you also know there are ways you can protect yourself from these risk factors?

Let's go over both of these issues.

Risk Factors

I'm going to use one hypothetical person as an example for the many risk factors for drug-taking behavior. We'll walk through a year in her shoes to better understand these factors.

Lindsey has been diagnosed with depression. She is taking prescription medication, but it doesn't seem to be helping her. Depression is one risk factor for taking drugs; there are also plenty of other things that may make a person stressed or feel bad, such as anxiety or stresses at work, that lead to drug use.

Thankfully, Lindsey has been put on a new drug that is helping her feel a lot better. Unfortunately, she loses her job soon after. The loss of something major, like a career, a family member, or friends, is another risk factor for taking drugs.

After she loses her job, Lindsey begins hanging around a new group of friends. These so-called friends not only use drugs themselves but also try and pressure Lindsey into using them. Peer pressure is a huge risk factor for drug use. Lindsey may feel compelled to use the drugs--not because she wants to use them, but because she fears losing companionship.

She doesn't take the bait, but her family is extremely upset that she's hanging out with such drug addicts, and this seems to drive her and her family apart. A lack of family involvement in one's life, especially a family that can support you, is a risk factor for drug use as well.

As Lindsey drives to her family's home to try and resolve their differences, she gets into a bad car accident. Her doctor prescribes her painkillers to manage her physical symptoms. The problem is that using powerful painkillers is also another risk factor for turning to illicit drugs or for abusing prescription painkillers themselves.

Protective Factors

So how can Lindsey protect herself from getting addicted to or using drugs in the first place? There are some things she can do, some things her loved ones can help with, and some things the community at large should be responsible for when it comes to everyone within their locale.

For starters, Lindsey should see a mental health professional as directed to make sure her mental disorder doesn't drive her to use illicit substances. She can also join support groups to help cope with a loss, be it a loss of a job or a loss of a loved one.

She should also try to surround herself with people who do not use drugs. We are often a reflection of the people we associate with, and thus, a 'change in scenery' will be an important first step if her so-called friends are piling on the pressure for her to use drugs.

Family counseling can help in cases where there is a rift between family members. Remember, a strong family network is important in preventing drug abuse. Therefore, if her family is truly concerned and cares, they will come together in order to ensure Lindsey doesn't turn to drugs.

If Lindsey does get addicted, she should always see a therapist who has experience in dealing with drug abuse.

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