A study published this year found that most substance abuse problems peak during ages 18-26. This is when individuals go through rapid transitions, enter new social contexts, and have greater freedoms. That said, there are other reasons besides turning 18 that make someone more or less likely to abuse alcohol.
It is important to understand these “risk factors” as they are indicators of a higher likelihood that a person will develop an addiction to alcohol/drugs or use alcohol/drugs.
Males are more likely to abuse and use alcohol and marijuana than females.
2. Parental or Family Drinking, Family Medical History
If a pregnant woman drinks three plus glasses of alcohol per day, her child is likely to develop adult alcohol disorder. A family history of alcoholism is also a risk factor for alcoholism. Parental depression, like a family history of alcoholism, is associated with higher rates of alcohol abuse in children and youth.
3. Genetics & Social Factors
Substance dependence is associated with a number of genetic variations, but no one gene variant accounts for substance abuse. Genetic risks of alcoholism interact, or combine with, behavioural and social factors to impart a certain level of risk on a particular individual. For example, living in a more unstable neighbourhood is associated with a higher risk of young adult alcohol, drug and nicotine disorders. Individuals who experience abuse in childhood are also at a higher risk of becoming addicted to alcohol and abusing other harmful substances. In contrast, strong family bonds predict lower alcohol abuse and consumption. Social norms also play a role in drinking habits. For example, evidence suggests that in college, peers often accept binge drinking and so more binge drinking occurs.
Child hyperactivity is linked to young adult alcohol/drug problems only if it co-occurs with other conditions like oppositional defiance disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety or depression. In males, there is a strong link between youth aggression and young adulthood problem drinking.
5. Depression or Anxiety Disorders
Having some depressive symptoms in adolescence is a substance abuse risk factor. However, having a major depressive disorder is not a predictor of alcohol abuse. In fact, child (age 10-11) depressive symptoms predicted less of a tendency to drink. The is likely a result of doctor’s orders.
Having psychiatric symptoms (like anxiety or depression) at age 19 predicts greater amounts of heavy drink at age 25 than someone without these psychiatric symptoms. Delinquency, deviance, antisocial behaviour, and conduct problems predict heavier alcohol use in early and late adulthood. Sensation-seeking behaviour and low harm avoidance behaviour in childhood and adolescence is associated with high drug and alcohol consumption in later life.
Poor grades, low attachment to school, stressful life events (like a death of a parent) are predictors of alcohol abuse in young adulthood.
Note: Having these risk factors does not mean that a person will have an alcohol or substance abuse problem. These factors indicate that a person is more likely than those who do not have the same risk factors to develop these problems.
- According to CBC News, Canadians spent almost $700 dollars on alcohol per person on average in 2007.
- A 2008 study from the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health estimates that alcohol abuse costs every Canadian $463 per year in lost productivity, health care costs, and crime related costs.
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving estimate that every year 1,500 deaths occur due to drunk driving.
- Per capita, Canadians consume on average, 115.75 litres of alcohol every year.
- Alcohol sales totalled $18 billion dollars in 2007.
If you or a loved one has a substance abuse problem, please contact your provincial treatment referral service. They should also be able to tell you which programs are supported by your provincial health insurance plan. Here is a list by province/territory: