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The Swiss Cheese Model of Drug Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse introduces The Swiss Cheese Model of Drug Addiction. This video is an application of James Reason’s Swiss Cheese Model of accident causation (1990) to the risk of addictive disorders. The model helps us understand why not everyone who abuses a drug becomes addicted and why it is currently not possible to predict who will.


Female Narrator:

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 a different layers representing our genes, brain development, parents 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 a drug abuse behavior to become an addiction, the risk most cross through a lot of slices.

Usually a few of our slices are solid enough to stop the addiction before it’s too late.

Thinking about addiction in this way helps us understand, it is impossible to predict who will become addicted.

However recognizing the risks they can lead to addiction creates many opportunities to protect our future and build a healthier society.

This page was last updated September 2014