Why Do Some People Become Addicted While Others Do Not?

No single factor can predict whether you will develop an addiction. A combination of factors influence your risk. This includes your:

  • Individual biology
  • Social environment
  • Age or stage of development

The more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of addiction.


Your genes and environmental influences account for about half of your addiction risk. Gender, ethnicity, and mental disorders also contribute to your risk.


Your environment includes family, friends, socioeconomic status, and quality of life. Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, stress, and quality of parenting can greatly influence your addiction risk.


Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages to affect your risk. Taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction. But the earlier you use drugs, the more likely it will lead to more serious abuse. This poses a special challenge to adolescents. They may be especially prone to risk-taking behaviors. Their brains are still developing in the areas that govern decision making, judgment, and self-control.

Prevention Is the Key

Drug addiction is a preventable disease. Research has shown prevention programs can be effective if they involve:

  • families
  • schools
  • cultural factors
  • communities
  • the media

Young people reduce drug use when they perceive it as harmful.

Education and outreach are key in helping all people understand the risks of drug abuse.

For more information, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Last Updated 12/21/2022