It may not be easy at the top, but life at the bottom of the social hierarchy may make individuals more vulnerable to addiction, according to animal research that is helping to elucidate the role of environmental factors in addiction.
In fact, having a less stressful, more privileged environment may provide a degree of protection from addiction or relapse during recovery, according to a recent review of the role of environment in addiction (Nader and Czoty. Am J Psychiatry. 2005;162:1473-1482). Using advanced brain imaging techniques, scientists have shown that environmental factors have lasting effects on brain receptors known to be altered by drug abuse, providing a possible molecular basis for the chronic relapsing nature of addiction and suggesting possible targets for treatment.
Kuehn BM. Role of Environment in Addiction Probed. JAMA. 2005;294(23):2953-2955. doi:10.1001/jama.294.23.2953