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Why Do Some People Become Addicted to Drugs and Alcohol While Others Don’t?

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Abstaining from drugs and alcohol is the best way to prevent addiction because no one knows for sure whether or not a person will become addicted to these substances. That being said, there are some factors that influence a person’s risk of addiction.

Factors that lead to someone becoming addicted:

  • Genetics and biology
  • Environment
  • Development
  • Other factors

We dive deeper into each category below:

Genetics and Biology

Addiction runs in families. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

The genes that people are born with account for about half of a person’s risk for addiction.”

If addiction is present in your family history, your risk for substance use disorder may be higher. You are also more susceptible to addiction if you have another mental illness. Mental health conditions are also passed down from generation to generation.

When you have an addiction at the same time as another mental health condition, you are dealing with a co-occurring disorder and will need special treatment. Many people use drugs and alcohol as a way to self-medicate, so addressing both problems is incredibly important.


Your surroundings have an enormous impact on your potential for addiction. If you have the right parental guidance, for example, you may be less likely to abuse drugs and/or alcohol. Still, your environment involves more than just your family and friends. Your economic status and general quality of life could play into your likelihood for addiction. Further, peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, early exposure to drugs, and stress are all factors that increase your risk for addiction.

Sometimes, people turn to drugs and alcohol after a single traumatic event.


You can develop an addiction at any age, but you are much more vulnerable to addiction in your teens. When you are young, your brain is not finished developing, and the areas that control decision-making, judgment, and self-control are still forming. Teens are especially prone to trying drugs and more vulnerable to the way substances rewire the brain.

The earlier you begin using drugs and/or alcohol, the more likely your substance use will lead to addiction.

Other Factors

Biology, environment, and development are the 3 biggest risk factors for addiction, but other factors may come into play.

For instance, the type of drug you take may influence whether or not you become addicted. Methamphetamine and crack cocaine are extremely addictive, and you can get hooked after one dose, but marijuana addiction may take time.

Surgeries and chronic pain may also influence your risk for addiction because many addictions start when doctors prescribe opioids as part of a pain management program. Opiates are extremely addictive and prescription drug abuse can quickly devolve into heroin addiction.

No matter what substance you are battling, addiction is not your fault.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains:

Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences.

In addition to being difficult to control, the disease physically alters your brain. Research has revealed that addiction can “hijack and even destroy key brain regions that are meant to help us survive.”

As such, recovery is not a matter of morals or willpower, but rather a matter of getting the right care and assistance.

At The Carter Treatment Center, we help people recover from drug and alcohol addiction with partial hospitalization programs and outpatient rehab.

We know how hard it can be to recover from substance use disorder, and we know that it can seem like there’s no way out. Our team is here to tell you that there is hope – and we are here to help.

Call us at (678) 737-4430 to get started or contact us online to make a change today.