The Nature and Nurture of Addiction

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

We often hear people describe certain things as being in their genes. While it’s true that our genes describe many of our attributes, it is rarely the case that something has a specific one. Usually traits are expressed by a combination of genes. This means we are unlikely to ever find a specific “addiction gene“. A person with a family history of addiction is more likely to be susceptible to substance abuse–but they are not predestined for it and can avoid it. Similarly, a person with no family history of drug abuse can become addicted depending on their life circumstances. Ultimately, it comes down to both nature and nurture.



Let’s be clear: everyone has some potential for addiction, it’s hardwired into our biology. But some people have a familial predisposition for it that others might not have. Often this goes beyond just drugs and alcohol and may express itself in compulsive eating, hoarding, and even codependency.

For those of us with that predisposition, every time we use drugs or alcohol, it reinforces the brain’s “wiring” that increases our reliance on them. It doesn’t mean that every child of an alcoholic parent is destined to repeat their path–but it does warrant extreme caution.



Nurture is many things. It includes the environment we grow up in, and how safe we feel. A person who might not have a family history of addiction might still find themselves on a bad path. Often, people without the family history can find themselves in trouble because their guard is down and they think it can’t happen to them.

If you’re a parent, you need to take extreme care to create a secure environment for your children, especially if there’s a family history of substance abuse. Call us at (866) 971-5531 to learn more about what options are available in South Florida to provide a clean and sober place to detox in, regardless of what the family nature may be.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director 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.