Preventing Addiction

Addictions can be reduced

An addiction or substance use disorder is not a simple thing to treat or prevent. Addictions result from myriad interactions between a person's biology and their physical, social, and cultural environments. Family history, traumatic events, psychological makeup, and more influence a person's risk of addiction. Likewise, slowing or reversing addiction requires several strategies applied together to improve the outcome. 

The risk of addiction can be decreased. While there is no single way to prevent addiction, education, strengthened support systems, and greater awareness of the factors that affect substance misuse can mitgate the risks.

This National Institute on Drug Abuse video introduces The Swiss Cheese Model of Drug Addiction to help explain why not everyone who abuses a drug becomes addicted and why it is currently not possible to predict who will.

Description of the video:

The question is often asked, why do some people use drugs and never get addicted. People are extremely complex, and complexity creates diversity. Each of us is a unique collection of different layers representing our genes, brain development, parent’s influence, social environment, diet, and many more. Each layer is like a slice of swiss cheese. The areas with holes are the dangerous areas of the slice because they can let risks go through. The areas without holes protect us because they can block risks. For example, hanging out with friends who abuse drugs punches a huge hole in our social slice, while playing sports, learning a second language, or hanging out with friends who don’t use drugs can shrink the holes in the social slice. For drug abuse behavior to become an addiction, the risk must cross through a lot of slices. Usually, a few of our slices are solid enough to stop the addiction before its too late. Thinking about addiction in this way helps us understand it is impossible to predict who will become addicted. However, recognizing the risks that can lead to addiction creates many opportunities to protect our future and build a healthier society.

Addiction stigma

About 21 million Americans are addicted to drugs, yet only about 10 percent get treatment. Stigma, or negative attitudes, toward drug use and addiction can prevent those who need help from seeking it. Too often, addiction is seen as a choice rather than the disease that it is. To assure the full treatment that those people experiencing substance use disorders and addiction need, stigma surrounding addiction must be addressed and reduced.

Learn more about how stigma impacts addiction