The environment around an individual plays a significant role in the development of personal belief systems and addictions. An addiction to drugs or alcohol can partially relate to the environment that an individual experienced from childhood. Factors like peer pressure from childhood, parents who took drugs or living in a neighborhood with substances that are readily available can make it easier to develop the belief that drugs are safe or that it is normal.
Environmental Factors that Contribute to Addiction
Environmental factors relate to the type of location and surroundings that an individual grows up in or is living in at the time an addiction starts developing. According to the Mayo Clinic, the attitudes and beliefs of the family are among the factors that may impact the development of an addiction. Other factors surrounding individuals also make it easier or harder to try drugs.
The factors that commonly relate to addiction development include:
- Family beliefs that drugs are not harmful
- Peer pressure
- Availability in the local area
- Encouragement in the surroundings to try drugs, whether
from peers or subtle messages in the area
- A lack of substance abuse education in the area
Although the risk factors are primarily associated with lax environments that suggest the drugs are safe, some individuals may try drugs as a rebellion against an overly-strict environment as well. Each individual is different and the risk of developing an addiction due to the actions of others around that person can contribute to the problem.
Identifying Environmental Causes
A key problem with addiction is that different causes are not always easy to identify. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that some individuals take drugs to feel good rather than to run from emotional pain. In those cases, it is hard to determine if the reason the addiction developed was related to their environment growing up or if it related to a different underlying reason.
Identifying the environmental factors primarily requires counseling that questions the individual about his or her background, beliefs or ideas. Asking about a belief system will help determine if an individual grew up in a family that had a lax belief about the dangers of alcohol and drugs or if the family was overly strict, resulting in a rebellious attitude that ultimately resulted in trying a substance.
Talking about the past and where an individual grew up can also help. Certain areas have a higher risk of substance abuse due to the availability of drugs. When the area that an individual grew up in had a high rate of substance abuse when compared to national averages, it is likely that the environment contributed to, or directly caused the addiction to develop.
Although it is less likely that an addiction will develop as a result of environmental factors after reaching adulthood, some young adults may still succumb to substance abuse while trying to fit in when they move to a new location or if their environment has a higher rate of substance abuse. Even adults who grew up in a stable home with a belief system that using drugs is wrong can be influenced by peers or their surroundings after moving out.
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