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Risk factors

Environment, individual and drugs are all risk factors in vulnerable youth, for use, abuse, and addiction. Many factors can promote or prevent drug use.

Environmental factors. The environment is a major influence on whether a youth will experiment with drugs or develop an aversion to them. The home environment is an important factor in preventing drug use or promoting it: parents with strong negative views towards drugs, parents that enforce reasonable rules, family dinners, and discussions can significantly influence whether a child is likely to use drugs. Friends, religious authorities, the media, the criminal justice system, affiliations with social and religious groups, and public education messages on potential consequences of drugs can also influence positive, healthy choices.

On the other hand, drug use can be encouraged by parents' indifference or acceptance of drugs, chaotic homes with ineffective parents, lack of bonding or severe emotional shocks such as child abuse, the death of a parent, or alcoholic or drug-addicted parents can spur adolescents or young adults into drug use. Social acceptability, peer pressure, and the media can also promote drug use.

Individual factors. Genetic factors, psychiatric problems and personality disorders, poor school performance and behavior, or early drug use can lead to significant drug-related problems. For risk-seekers, drugs may present yet another adventure.

Drug-related risks. Drugs exert powerful, capricious effects on the brain. The dose, cost, availability, how the drug is taken (intravenous, smoking, insufflation, oral), the type of chemical, and how a user responds to a particular drug are critical factors. The imprint of a drug in the brain can be as unpredictable as a storm, leaving little trace of passage or a trail of biological changes that impact brain function, personality and behavior.