Because addictive behavior has such serious effects on the health and social well being of the addict and those around him or her, why would anyone start? One characteristic that marks addicts, whether to chemicals or nonchemical practices, is a low sense of self esteem. The addict may arise from any social or economic situation, and there is no way to discern among a group of people who will become an addict and who will not.
It has been a basic tenet that the individual who uses drugs heavily will become addicted. However, soldiers who served in Vietnam reported heavy use of marijuana and heroin while they were in the combat zone, yet the vast majority gave up the habit upon returning home. There are reports, however, of people becoming addicted to a drug with exposure only once or a few times.
Some experts believe people are born with the predisposition to become addicted. Children of addicts have a greater probability of becoming addicts themselves than do children whose parents are not. Thus, the potential for addiction may be hereditary. On the other hand, a psychological problem may lead the individual into addiction. The need for instant gratification, a feeling of being socially ostracized, and an inability to cope with the downfalls of life have all been cited as possible springboards to addiction.