The term drug addiction refers to a repeated pattern of using drugs that are illegal or beyond the predetermined prescribed limit. This pattern leads to compulsive behavior when a person abuses psychoactive substances, and it has detrimental effects on the brain. It affects both social life and physical well-being. The factors determining the occurrence of drug use disorders include genetic predisposition and the increased sensitivity of reward receptors in the brain. Additionally, such environmental factors as the widespread availability of drugs, i.e., frequent prescription of opioid analgesics and a more open public attitude towards recreational narcotics, may be significant predictors of drug abuse and addiction as well. In this essay, I would like to persuade you that in many cases, the socio-cultural environment may have a stronger influence on the development and outcome of drug addiction.
Role of Non-Biological Factors
Both biological and environmental factors support the initiation of the use of addictive substances and the transition to addiction. As such, all types of addictions are highly heritable, which means that a person is at a higher risk of addiction if he or she has an addicted relative. Genetic factors have a greater influence on addictive behaviors at later stages in life, while younger people are more affected by socio-cultural and family factors. This means that an adolescent who lives in a pathological family will tend to use drugs more often than one living in a family with strong emotional ties. Moreover, young people may frequently engage in substance abuse out of curiosity or under the influence of peers.
As stated by Chakravarthy, Shah, & Lotfipour (2013), the major factors that can either mitigate or increase the risk of adolescent drug abuse include frequent exposure to drugs, socio-economic status of the family, quality of relationships with parents, and peer group influences. Inherent genetic predisposition is regarded as an important risk factor as well, yet it is unlikely for a young person to engage in drug abuse in an environment with a low level of exposure to substances and where he or she does not need to cope with stressful situations. At the same time, Chakravarthy et al. (2013) observe that many drug addicts start using substances early in life and that the number of negative childhood experiences is directly correlated with the likelihood of initiating drug use during adolescence or later in life.
An example of the role of socio-cultural factors in the development of drug abuse is the increasing popularity of sedative substances among club drug users in the USA. The use of such drugs as Xanax has become a trend and is supported by a significant rise in total drug prescription in the country − 226 percent since 2009 (Kurtz, Buttram, & Surratt, 2017). As for the outcomes of drug addiction, they also largely depend on environmental factors. Maehira et al. (2013) note that addicted individuals relapse after rehabilitation in up to 60 percent of cases, depending on the context and where they live. Factors contributing to relapse include the proximity of drugs, poorly developed social connections, lack of meaningful relationships, living in unstable housing, and so on.
This paper examined the significance of environmental factors in the development and persistence of drug addiction. Research has revealed that non-biological risks including the availability of drugs, cultural and peer influences, exposure to stress, etc. substantially increase the risk for repeated drug use among people of all ages, especially younger age groups. Thus it is possible to suggest that withdrawal from adverse environmental contexts may help cure drug addiction.
Chakravarthy, B., Shah, S., & Lotfipour, S. (2013). Adolescent drug abuse – Awareness & prevention. The Indian Journal of Medical Research, 137(6), 1021–1023.
Kurtz, S. P., Buttram, M. E., & Surratt, H. L. (2017). Benzodiazepine dependence among young adult participants in the club scene who use drugs. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 49(1), 39–46.
Maehira, Y., Chowdhury, E. I., Reza, M., Drahozal, R., Gayen, T. K., Masud, I., … Azim, T. (2013). Factors associated with relapse into drug use among male and female attendees of a three-month drug detoxification–rehabilitation programme in Dhaka, Bangladesh: A prospective cohort study. Harm Reduction Journal, 10, 14.