What Are Protective and Risk Factors in Addiction?

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There is not a single cause of addiction. It does not stem solely from genetics or environment. It results from a culmination of different factors. Many of these factors are viewed as either protective or risk factors. Protective factors are elements that reduce a person’s risk of engaging in substance use or developing an addiction. Risk factors are elements that make them more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as substance use.

Many factors can either work for or against an individual depending on how they are presented. For instance:

Parental Involvement: If a parent is very involved in their child’s life, they maintain open and honest communication, set rules and expectations, and create a safe, nurturing environment, this works in the child’s favor. They are less likely to experiment with drugs or alcohol. However, if a parent is not around much, treats them poorly and is not supportive, doesn’t enforce rules, or uses drugs or alcohol themselves, this can increase a child’s risk.

Substance Availability: Drugs and alcohol should be kept out of sight and out of reach of children. If parents are using these substances, they should be doing so responsibly and setting a good example. When youth have easy access to addictive substances, it can increase their risk of use.

Environment: It is a good idea for youth to be involved in activities that promote self-esteem, self-confidence, and healthy decision making. They should be surrounded by people who support them and care about their well-being. Very unstructured, unpredictable, or unsupportive environments can act as risk factors. Children may feel more pressure or temptation to try drugs or alcohol. They may not understand the dangers.

Above It All helps clients to overcome challenges that have contributed to their substance use and create a sustainable lifestyle in recovery. Individuals can be more proactive in their own recovery and preventing loved ones from developing addictions.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents (In Brief). Accessed March 4, 2016.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Risk and Protective Factors. Accessed March 3, 2016.
  3. Youth.gov, Risk and Protective Factors. Accessed March 12, 2016.
  4. NCBI, The Role of Risk and Protective Factors in Substance Use across Adolescence. Accessed March 17, 2016.
  5. European Journal of Public Health, Individual, Group and Community Risk and Protective Factors for Alcohol and Drug Use Among Swedish Adolescents. February 2008, Accessed March 11, 2016.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, get the treatment you need at Above It All so you can be a more positive role model.
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