Why do drugs ruin some peoples lives and other people have no issues flirting with them on and off? That’s a complicated question.

Some people have life factors that make them prone to addiction, some have biological factors, and the unlucky ones have both.

Along with life factors, some drugs are more addictive than others. Drug addiction happens at a cellular level, so explaining it can get complex.

Why do people get addicted to drugs? Get the comprehensive guide below.

Life Factors

Have you ever heard someone talk about nature vs nurture? It’s the belief that we’re shaped as people partly by our environment (nurture) and partly by our relationships (nurture).

Scientists are still split on which is more important, literally. Right now the accepted belief is that its half nature and half nurture.

Fifty-fifty, that is, if neither nature or nurture interacts.

Let’s say someone is adopted into a loving and supportive family. Their biological parents (nature) had drug addiction issues but the adopted parents raised them drug-free.

That person’s nurture can balance out their nature.

If that person had stayed with their biological parents (nurture) and their parents had continued to use drugs (nature), then they’d be more likely to use drugs themselves.

The nature vs nurture discussion is just part of the equation. There are plenty of addicts that come from a drug-free nurture and natural environment.

So where do their addictions come from? One of the other factors below.

“Addictive Personalities”

For a long time, people believed there was something called an “addictive personality“. That was someone who jumped from addiction to addiction or did something almost religiously.

New science shows that just because you have a coffee habit (ex) doesn’t mean you’re prone to addiction.

What an addictive personality really means is a biological predisposition or mental illness. There are no specific traits you can learn to develop an addictive personality.

Mental Illness

If you find someone with a legitimate addiction, they’re probably battling some sort of mental illness.

When someone grapples with a mental illness, especially undiagnosed, they seek ways to feel better. Sometimes, those ways are where addictions come from.

Think about someone who has depression. They may get addicted to cocaine because it makes them feel happy.

The addiction can cause mental illness to arise as well as exacerbate existing issues. Someone with a history or predisposition to depression can become depressed as their addiction worsens.

Alcohol is a chemical depressant, which robs the brain of already scarce resources.

Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse cites that six out of ten substance abusers have a co-existing mental illness.

This data goes on to suggest that those with childhood disorders are at risk for addiction. Even things that seem unrelated, like ADHD.

Scientists don’t know why this link is so strong, but research on the topic continues.

Physiological Factors

Did you know that humans are 99.9% similar to each other? Genetically we share almost 100% of the same characteristics and genes.

That .1% is responsible for different skin colors, body shapes – anything that differentiates you from someone else.

Even though the percentage is so small, it’s relevant to how drugs affect us. Someone who’s almost exactly alike (in their .1%) to another person, may love cocaine, while the other hates it.

Each body processes and feels drugs differently than someone else’s. You may do the exact same amount of drugs as a friend that gets addicted, but you don’t like how the high feels.

You don’t get addicted, because your body processes the high differently than your friend.

Keep in mind, the other factors (like life and biology) are relevant in this equation too.

Brain Chemistry

What do drugs do to your brain? Well, it depends on the drug. But almost all drugs have an effect on dopamine, your reward processor.

Dopamine makes you feel good. When you take a drug, your body processes it as a reason to increase dopamine production.

You take the drug and you feel good – for a certain amount of time, right? Then you come down and feel worse or the same as before.

If you do drugs over time or do very powerful drugs like heroin, your dopamine receptors get used to higher levels of input.

Then, when your daily life (not doing drugs) doesn’t provide enough stimulation to fill the receptors, you don’t get as much dopamine.

You cannot feel as happy as you were on drugs as you do off drugs when your body is used to them.

You want to feel that level of happiness again, so you go to the drugs. Doing more drugs heightens the dopamine receptor issue and makes it harder to feel happy in the future.

This isn’t a long-term effect, but it’s why people feel so awful in early recovery.


Think about getting into a cold pool. You ease yourself in and once that part gets used to the water, you go deeper.

The same is true with using drugs over and over, on a brain chemistry level. Your brain gets used to the chemicals and you get less high from the same amount.

You have to use more drugs to feel the same effect as you did a week ago. This is what happens most of the time when people overdose.

They start with a safe amount, but their bodies are used to it so they don’t get high. They introduce more and more drugs to counteract that.

Your body can only handle so many doses or toxins.

Why Do People Get Addicted to Drugs?

As you can see above, there are as many factors that go into drug addiction as there are drug types.

No one addict’s journey to addiction is the same as someone else’s. The best way to prevent addiction, if you have risk factors, is to acknowledge and explore them.

Is someone you love addicted to drugs or do you believe you are? If you read our article about why do people get addicted to drugs and want to seek help, find out more about our services here.

We’re here to help, not to judge, and we’ll walk you or a loved one through every step of the way.