Who is susceptible to addiction?

Addiction is a complex medical disorder with biological, psychological, and social components.

There are addictive substances (such as nicotine, alcohol and cannabis) and addictive behaviors (such as gambling and gaming) that many people try, willingly and consciously, at some point in their lives. Although not everyone who uses these and other substances will become addicted to them, there is no way of knowing or predicting how a person’s brain and body will respond to a substance, or whether they will develop an addiction.   

Addiction involves great suffering, and can worsen without treatment. As with other medical disorders, addiction has known risk factors, including genetic, environmental and developmental factors. The more risk factors that a person has, the greater the likelihood that his or her engagement with addictive substances or behaviors will lead to addiction. These risk factors include:

  • Genetic predisposition, such as having first-degree relatives who suffer from addiction.
  • Psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder.
  • Psychological factors, such as certain personality traits, tendency to seek excitement and take risks, and difficulty regulating emotions.
  • Environmental influences, including access to addictive substances, social and cultural factors that encourage addictive behavior, and exposure to traumatic events.
  • The consumption of addictive substances and engagement with addictive behaviors at a young age. Because the brains of children and adolescents are still developing, those exposed at an early age are at greater risk of becoming addicted.