The short answer is yes and no. See also this article published on Addictionology.co.za
Yes because the extent of people who are in active addiction (which includes addiction to substances, behaviours and emotions) can be reduced. We call this principle Harm Reduction. Theoretically we can reduce the amount of people who enter into active addiction by providing proper education and prevention programs to children at the right age. We can never stop the supply of addictive products or services, but we can have an effect on the demand. We can also reduce the amount of people in active addiction by making treatment affordable and accessible.
What we are seeing is that prevention programs in high schools are “too little too late”. On average, between 15% and 30% of the pupils in high schools already admit to having a substance abuse problem which they believe needs treatment. This means that prevention needs to start at a much younger age. The motive of education in schools needs to change from producing people who are economically useful to people who are emotionally independent, who know what they want and display a knowledge of the life skills required to compete in the game called life.
In terms of nature or nurture, the disease or “dis-ease” of addiction is not entirely nature’s fault. It’s also nurtured by our parents, role models and environments. In other words, we can have an effect on how people see themselves and what choices they make in life if we reach them soon enough. If people believe that they lack anything, they desire what they believe will make them whole or what will improve their life. If people see themselves as whole and complete, they do not desire any substance, product or service because they understand that it cannot make them better.
However for all of this to take place, taxes which are collected from addictive products or services must be re-appropriated for addiction prevention, education and treatment. Also, corporates that profit from people who cannot control themselves must become accountable by spending the profits which are generated from addicted people on harm reduction.
And finally no addiction cannot be prevented entirely because there will always be addictive products, services and behaviours available and marginalized people who have no access to prevention, education and treatment will continue to enter addiction and to remain addicted & pass their thinking and behaviours on to their future generations. As long as people have “stinking thinking” (i.e. believe that anything will make them better, significant, acceptable, more confident or happy) addiction will continue.