Is Addiction Genetic?

Last Updated: Feb 24th 2020

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

Is Addiction Genetic?

Your genes determine your physical features such as eye and hair color. They also determine your behavioral characteristics such as confidence and patience. This makes it fair to ask, “Is addiction genetic?” The answer to this is more complex than a simple yes or no.

Is Addiction Genetic?

The child of a parent or parents who abuses or is addicted to drugs or alcohol is predisposed to the disorder as well. Like eye color and behaviors, this is a trait that parents can pass on to their kids. Other close relatives such as grandparents can also pass on these genes even when the parents don’t have an addiction problem. The disease often runs in families because of genetics, but other factors contribute to its development too.

How Genetics Influence Drug and Alcohol Use

According to research, about half of the risk for addiction lies in genetics. There isn’t just one gene that amplifies this risk. There are hundreds of genes that could directly or indirectly increase the risk of addiction development. It’s so difficult to identify the genes that contribute because they’re only a small part of a larger problem.

Some of these genes simply influence behaviors that lead to addiction. Those with a history of alcohol addiction, for example, are more likely to have a history of mental illness. This is because the risk for addiction is 20% higher for individuals with mental health disorders than those without.

How the Environment Affects Drug and Alcohol Use

The environment of those predisposed to addiction also contributes to the decisions that they make. For example, someone might go through trauma and use drugs or alcohol to deal with it. Some environmental factors that increase the risk for addiction are:

  • Peer pressure
  • Emotional or sexual abuse
  • Violence

Why Some Predisposed People Don’t Develop Addictions

Although genes predispose people to alcohol addiction, not everyone who has those genes develops the disease. One reason for this is that something must drive them to start drinking or using. They may never experience the environmental factors that lead others to drink or use. However, growing up with parents who have an addiction problem doesn’t mean that someone will develop an addiction either.

Another reason why some people don’t develop addiction is their genes. Just as some genes influence the development of addiction, other genes may decrease the risk. Some people of Asian descent, for instance, have a gene that alters their alcohol metabolism. This gives them a rapid heartbeat, flushing, and nausea when they consume alcohol, protecting them the likelihood of developing an alcohol addiction.

Addiction Treatment at 1st Step Behavioral Health

It’s important for people with addiction to seek help when they decide to regain control of their lives. It’s not enough to only go through a detox program. They need the guidance of a caring rehab staff like the one at 1st Step Behavioral Health.

Now that you know the answer to, “Is addiction genetic?”, you can decide what your next steps are. If you or a loved one want to recover from addiction, reach out to 1st Step Behavioral Health. Our primary therapists, recovery coaches and nurse practitioner can help you address the root cause of your addiction. During your treatment, the staff will prepare you for living sober by teaching life skills such as:

  • Attending support group meetings
  • Coping with cravings
  • Going grocery shopping for nutritious foods
  • Managing your time

Don’t allow drugs like alcohol or opioids to dictate your life. Take charge of your health and repair your relationships with the help of 1st Step Behavioral Health. Call (866) 319-6126 today to begin your journey to recovery.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.