Some people associate drug abuse with the uneducated and financially unstable, but recent studies suggest risk factors like high intelligence and sensitivity may put you at greater risk for addiction. Which types of people are most likely to get addicted?
We can all recall Hollywood blockbusters, novels and word-of-mouth stories about those who come from broken homes or were bullied at school and subsequently developed an alcohol or drug problem, but in fact, recent studies suggest it is the people you might not expect who face the highest risk of addiction. With high IQ, high-pressure jobs and youth all being risk factors associated with addiction, Singapore may not be as exempt from these concerns as you thought.
Thanks to an admirable education system, strict drug enforcement and high quality of life, Singapore fairs quite well when you compare its addiction statistics against other developed nations. But that does not mean drugs and alcohol are not a problem. In fact, it appears that an increasing number of people under 30 are taking drugs in Singapore, with arrest rates last year at their highest in a decade.
Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin has stated that misinformation and social media are at least partly responsible for the growing number of younger people experimenting with drugs like marijuana, which suggests that now might be the time to get our facts right and debunk some addiction myths. So, who is most at risk for addiction?
1. Young People
Younger generations are more likely to suffer from addiction than any other age group – particularly young men, which is evidenced by the growing drug problem among Singaporeans under 30. The prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for impulse control – is still developing at this stage. Combine this with wide availability of drugs, lifestyles that accommodate drug use and social pressure to party, and you have a recipe for drug abuse that can quickly spiral into addiction. Young people are also more engaged in social media, which can be used to procure drugs. Alcohol ads on social media also increase the likelihood of alcohol abuse in underage drinkers.
2. People with High Intelligence
There is a common misconception that addicts are not very bright people, but that stereotype is simply untrue. Of course, people with low IQs are still at risk of suffering from addiction – a condition that affects all demographics – but some studies suggest that those who score higher on IQ tests are more likely to experiment with drugs than those with under-average or average scores. Does this mean that Singaporeans face an especially high risk, given that Singaporean children rank as the smartest in the world?
One theory suggests that intelligent people use more drugs because smart people do not necessarily make smart decisions, but rather gravitate toward beliefs and actions that are ‘evolutionarily novel’. That is, rather than maintaining the status quo of ‘evolutionarily familiar’ decision-making, intelligent people tend to part ways with it – despite the negative consequences of drug use.
3. Children of Drug Abusers
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, children of addicts are more than 50 per cent more likely to abuse drugs than the general public. Some of this has to do with genetic factors that predispose a person to addiction. Exposure to substance abuse in the household while growing up can also contribute to addictive tendencies, as can availability of substances. Trauma associated with parental drug abuse can also serve as a precursor to addiction.
4. Depression and Bipolar Disorder Sufferers
It may not come as a shock that co-occurring mental health conditions increase risk for addiction, as sufferers are more likely to self-medicate with drugs. But it is important to remember the symptoms of conditions like depression and bipolar disorder are often difficult to spot. Some people are extremely skilled in hiding their real emotions, or they may be turning to substances to numb their negative feelings.
Singapore may boast an exceptionally high quality of life, but an estimated 5.6 per cent of Singaporeans will experience depression in their lifetimes. While drugs and alcohol often seem like a short-term solution to the symptoms of depression, constant abuse makes the symptoms worse over time. If you or anybody you know is suffering from depression, it is best to see a medical professional to address the problem before addiction becomes a risk.
5. Sensitive People
Negative emotionality is a trait that causes people to feel more negative feelings such as anxiety, stress and panic than the average person. These feelings often lead to impulsive decision making and irrational behaviour. Those who feel lots of negative emotions may also be tempted to turn to drugs or alcohol as a means to relieve their symptoms. Again, drugs and alcohol are never an effective long-term coping strategy, making it vital for people with this tendency to contact a medical professional when they are struggling.
Treatment for All Addictions at The Cabin Singapore
No one is doomed to a life of addiction. But it is helpful to be aware of your risk factors, watch for behavioural patterns that could be of concern and take the right steps to prevent and address addiction. What begins as recreational drug or alcohol use can soon turn into to a serious problem more easily than most people realise. However, those who are suffering from addiction should know that they are not alone and that there is help available.
At The Cabin Singapore, our highly skilled counsellors know how to get to the root of our clients’ problems and start them on their road to recovery, no matter what their demographic. Contact us today for confidential advice and support.