Risk Factors

By reducing risk factors and increasing protective factors, the likelihood that adolescents will participate in alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs can be reduced. There are 17 identified risk factors for substance abuse. These risk factors fit into 4 categories, or domains, that consist of community, family, school, and individual/peer.

In 2007, Whatcom County conducted a needs assessment to prioritize risk factors for substance abuse. Based on key informant surveys, archival indicator data, and discussions with youth service providers, 4 risk factors were selected to be addressed. The following 4 risk factors are the focus of prevention efforts coordinated by Whatcom County Health Department:
  1. Family Management Problems
  2. Favorable Attitudes Toward the Problem Behavior
  3. Social Skills (protective)
  4. Bonding (protective)
Substance Abuse Categories
  • Availability of drugs
  • Community laws and norms favorable toward drug use
  • Transitions and mobility
  • Low neighborhood attachment and community disorganization
  • Extreme economic deprivation
Individual / Peer
  • Alienation and rebelliousness
  • Friends who engage in the problem behavior
  • Favorable attitudes toward the problem behavior
  • Early initiation of the problem behavior
  • Constitutional factors
  • Family history of the problem behavior
  • Family management problems
  • Family conflict
  • Favorable parental attitudes and involvement in the problem behavior
  • Early and persistent antisocial behavior
  • Academic failure beginning in late elementary school
  • Lack of commitment to school