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Why do some people become addicted to drugs, while others do not?

No single factor determines a person's risk for developing an addiction

As with other diseases and disorders, the likelihood of developing an addiction differs from person to person, and no single factor determines whether a person will become addicted to drugs. In general, the more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that taking drugs will lead to drug use and addiction. Protective factors, on the other hand, reduce a person's risk. Risk and protective factors may be either environmental or biological.

Factors that Increase Risk for Developing an Addiction

Increase Risk Domains Reduce Risk
Genetics, Mental illness, chronic pain. Individual Healthy lifestyle including exercise, diet and regular medical examinations.
Aggressive and/or risky behavior. Psychosocial Self-control, personal accountability.
Lack of parental supervision, parents or older family member frequently uses illicit drugs Family Parental monitoring and support during childhood, strong family support system during adulthood.
Relationships with individuals who frequently use illicit or misuse prescription drugs and/or alcohol. Peer Positive relationships
Academic failure/dropout, school/work environment with higher drug availability, inability to maintain stable employment. School/Work Gainful and emotionally fulfilling employment, academic competence, school/work environment that discourages drug use through proactive policies.
Neighborhood violence and poverty, disorganization, lack of opportunities for engagment within the community. Community Strong cohesive neighborhood/community that discourages drug use and alcohol misuse.


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This page was last updated July 2018