Environmental Risk Factors

What is a Risk Factor?

Roughly 10% of all people who experiment with drugs become addicted. A combination of environmental and genetic factors influence the likelihood of addiction.

Environmental risk factors are characteristics in a person's surroundings that increase their likelihood of becoming addicted to drugs. A person may have many environments, or domains, of influence such as the community, family, school, and friends. Their risk of addiction can develop in any of these domains.

Dr. Kelly Lundberg

All audio clips on this page are provided by Dr. Kelly Lundberg, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Consultant with the Utah Addiction Center at the University of Utah.


The Community Domain

community domain

An individual's connection with the community in which they live plays a big part in their liklihood of abusing drugs. Statistics show that if a person's community has favorable attitudes toward drug use, firearms and crime, their risk is increased.


The availability of firearms contributes to drug abuse risk.

Low neighborhood attachment and community disorganization.


The Peer Domain

The single biggest contributing factor to drug abuse risk is having friends who engage in the problem behavior. If an individual's friends have favorable attitudes towards drug use, this can also increase risk.


The difficulty of "finding new friends".

peer domain

The Family Domain

family domain

Family conflict and home management problems are contributing factors in drug abuse risk. Also, if parents have favorable attitudes towards drug use or use drugs themselves, often their children will be more likely to abuse drugs.


While divorce alone doesn't increase risk, family conflict does.

Family transition and mobility can contribute to risk.


The School Domain

A student's performance, participation, and commitment to school can be a major risk factor in addiction.


Academic failure beginning in late elementary school increases risk.

school domain

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APA format:
Genetic Science Learning Center (2014, June 22) Environmental Risk Factors. Learn.Genetics. Retrieved November 01, 2014, from http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/addiction/environment/
MLA format:
Genetic Science Learning Center. "Environmental Risk Factors." Learn.Genetics 1 November 2014 <http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/addiction/environment/>
Chicago format:
Genetic Science Learning Center, "Environmental Risk Factors," Learn.Genetics, 22 June 2014, <http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/addiction/environment/> (1 November 2014)