Risky Behavior and Addiction – Knowing What to Watch Out For

A young woman is sitting on a rock.

Most experts agree that addiction is not limited by race, genetics, socio-economic backgrounds or level of education. They may be factors, but there is no one smoking gun that always equates to addiction among them. Except perhaps, the behavior of using substances as a solution to a problem. This would lead one to believe that to a greater or lesser degree, addiction was a behavioral issue.

Since many things influence our behaviors, both consciously and unconsciously, it starts to become apparent that the root of addiction likely lies in the same place many of society’s woes begin. From physical abuse to unsafe environments, our behavior today is a result of the good and bad experiences we have accumulated over our lifetimes.

While there is no single “Bad Experience” that can predict addiction. It is true that as these experiences pile up the risk of addiction increases. It’s important to understand that it’s not actually the bad experience that causes the addiction, it’s how we react to that experience. Unfortunately, many people learn to cope by using a substance.

What Are Past Bad Experiences?

Past bad experiences can represent a lot of different types of negative experiences, but to summarize them in brief, the six most common types which tend to lead one to drug use or alcohol misuse are:

  • Harmful life experiences. When someone goes through particularly difficult life experiences that they are unable to overcome on their own, they may choose to experiment with drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Drug and alcohol use alters the mind and thought process, pulling the individual away from immediate awareness of himself, his struggles, his hardships, and his condition in life. People often use drugs or alcohol as an escape—a means by which they can get away from something or from a series of horrible things that happened to them.
  • A major loss. Losses may be the greatest human hardship. When we lose a family member due to death or divorce or some other form of separation, it’s not at all unheard of to take that loss with us for years. When the pain of the loss feels as though it is too much to bear, some people might turn to substance use as a coping mechanism.
  • A life crisis. People face hardship from time to time in life. It’s just a part of life. It could be getting fired from a job, losing the house, having an accident, falling ill, experiencing mental struggles, facing a loss of goals or inspiration, losing a group, etc. When people have a life crisis, and they can’t seem to overcome it, they might turn to substances to “escape” the crisis.
Crying young boy with a drunk father
  • Drug Use in the Family Environment. There is evidence that suggests substance use creates an unsafe environment for children and young adults due to the lack of strong role models to pattern healthy solutions. Instead, these children may see alcohol and drugs as an easier solution to dealing with the pain of their reality.
  • Childhood abuse and/or neglect. Even if drinking or drug use were not factors in one’s childhood, experiencing abuse and neglect as a child can lead to substance abuse patterns later on in life. Adults who’ve had traumatic childhoods will sometimes turn to drugs and alcohol to help them forget about their past struggles.
  • A failure towards a life goal. In life, people set goals for themselves, things they want to accomplish. Such goals are often set at a young age. When an individual does not make that goal do to a variety of potential factors, that can lead to poor self-image, low confidence, a sense of failure, and a mixture of other, harmful emotions and feelings. Failing to reach a goal can lead to a loss of hope. A loss of hope can lead to drug use or heavy drinking.

Creating the Best Environment for a Drug-Free Life

A big part of stopping addiction from ever happening in the first place lies in preventing the environments and circumstances that create the perfect breeding ground for addiction. That means making diligent, daily efforts at producing the best life for oneself and the best life for those around one too.

For parents, it means raising their kids in the best environments possible, environments that do not include peer pressure, trauma, abuse, neglect, financial struggle, hardship, etc.

For ourselves, avoiding these risk factors means creating a life where we do not face significant, ongoing struggle and hardship. And if we do face a major crisis, we need to have healthy methods of coping with such difficulties.

Support friends.

Some hardships and struggles are indeed unavoidable. Some life crises just happen. Some incidents occur without any control of ours. That’s when it’s essential to have contingency plans, support groups, friends, and family members to bolster us up and get us back in the ring again.

We are fortunate to know what the most common factors are which lead people to drug use and heavy drinking. We can make significant progress in reducing the current drug addiction epidemic if we think proactively and if we seek to prevent such conditions from coming about.

Help Your Loved One if They Fall Prey to a Drug Addiction

If someone you care about has already fallen prey to drug addiction, the focus now must be on getting them into and through a residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment center. Drug rehab programs offer the best and safest route out of addiction and into a new life of sobriety.

We should do everything we can in life so that our loved ones do not fall prey to addiction. We should get educated about drugs and alcohol, make sure our loved ones are also informed and educated, and take steps to lead lives that avoid risk factors for substance abuse.

But addiction does happen. It besets millions of people in the U.S. alone. If you or someone you care about is struggling with drug addiction, make sure help is available. And make sure that help is sought.


Reviewed and Edited by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.