Not everyone who uses a
drug develops a drug problem. Certain things make
dependence more likely. These are called risk factors.
Genetic and health risk factors
Genes. People with drug
problems often have a family history of drug use. Genes may influence whether you use drugs and whether
you move from drug use to drug abuse and dependence.1
Gender. More men than women use drugs. But
the rate of abusing prescription drugs is similar in men and women.2
Your mental health. If
you have a mental health problem, such as
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or an
anxiety disorder, you are more likely to use drugs. Treating mental health problems makes drug use less likely. And if you're using
drugs, treating mental health problems makes
recovery more likely.
Social risk factors
Early use. The earlier you began to use
drugs, the more likely you are to abuse them or become dependent. This may be because early drug use changes the developing
How you use. If you smoke a drug or inject it into a vein, you are more
likely to become dependent. These methods give you a
fast and intense "high," but you lose the high quickly and then feel low. This
may make you use the drug more often.3
The drug you use and how strong the drug is. Some drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, are so strong that
dependence is possible no matter how you use them.
Environment. If you live in an area where
drugs are easy to get and where drug use is common, you are more likely to use drugs.
Family and friends. You are more likely to use drugs if your family members or friends use them.
Problems with others. You may be more
likely to use drugs when you are having problems in your family or with
Not having purpose or satisfaction in your life. If you have no activities that give you a sense of purpose,
you may be more likely to use drugs.
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this