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Substance Abuse
Substance Abuse Prevention

Risk Factors, Introduction

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 four categories, or domains, that consist of community, family, school, and individual/peer (see Figure 2).

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, four risk factors were selected to be addressed. The following four 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)


Figure 2. 



Availability of Drugs

Alienation and Rebelliousness

Community Laws and Norms Favorable Toward Drug Use

Friends Who Engage in the Problem Behavior

Transitions and Mobility

Favorable Attitudes Toward the Problem Behavior

Low Neighborhood Attachment and Community Disorganization

Early Initiation of the Problem Behavior

Extreme Economic Deprivation

Constitutional Factors



Family History of the Problem Behavior

Early and Persistent Antisocial Behavior

Family Management Problems

Academic Failure Beginning in Late Elementary School

Family Conflict Lack of Commitment to School

Favorable Parental Attitudes and Involvement in the Problem Behavior



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