The environment one lives in plays a major role in their development of addiction. Addiction arises from a combination of both genetic and environmental factors, but environment can play a major role in whether the genetic trait is activated. Nobody is doomed to become addicted, but environmental factors can be a major determining factor. Environmental factors can either cause an increased risk of addiction, or protect one from addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, “As with any other disease, vulnerability to 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 abuse and addiction. Protective factors, on the other hand, reduce a person’s risk of developing addiction. Risk and protective factors may be either environmental (such as conditions at home, at school, and in the neighborhood) or biological (for instance, a person’s genes, their stage of development, and even their gender or ethnicity).” Environmental factors may include home life, school life, peer group, and community. For example, a child living with a parent who uses drugs is likely to be exposed to drugs at an earlier age and develop a favorable attitude toward substance abuse, increasing their risk of abusing drugs and developing addiction. Community is also a major factor. According to University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center, “An individual’s connection with the community in which they live plays a big part in their likelihood of abusing drugs. Statistics show that if a person’s community has favorable attitudes toward drug use, firearms and crime, their risk is increased.” One of the greatest environmental risk factors is one’s peer group. This includes having friends who have favorable attitudes toward alcohol and drugs, or also suffer from addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, “Friends and acquaintances can have an increasingly strong influence during adolescence. Drug-using peers can sway even those without risk factors to try drugs for the first time. Academic failure or poor social skills can put a child at further risk for using or becoming addicted to drugs.” None of these factors can absolutely determine whether one will become addicted, as addiction is based on a complex interplay between biology and environment. Environmental risk factors do, however, increase one’s likelihood of developing addiction.
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