Is Drug Addiction Genetic?
Clinically Reviewed by:
27 October, 2022
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, when looking at twins, siblings, and adoptees about half of their risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD) is based on genetic makeup.
What this means is that it’s possible to have a genetic predisposition to drug and alcohol addiction. Just having this genetic makeup does not mean you will automatically struggle with SUD. Rather, genetics is just one factor that can potentially put you at risk for SUD.
Let’s explore how your genetics, environment, and lifestyle can have an impact on you or a loved one developing a SUD.
What Are Genetics?
Genetics is the scientific study of your genes. Specifically, how certain traits are passed along through families. One gene is a segment of your DNA. DNA is a double helix, which looks like two twisted ladders. Research has shown that humans have approximately 20,000 genes. The combination of these genes gives us our unique traits.
Changes in someone's genes can cause their risk of developing a disease to increase. This can be done through stress or alternative outside factors. The reason why certain diseases carry on through families is because of the DNA that gets passed down from parents to children.
This can be stopped with lifestyle changes to prevent you from developing some of the diseases your parents may struggle with. Implementing these changes can help prevent genes from continuing as well.
No one specific gene shows if you are predisposed to addiction. There is some research showing that there are genes specific to certain substances, such as alcohol, opioids, or other substances.
What Does Genetic Testing for Drug Addiction Look Like?
There is more research that still needs to be done in this area. Many professionals believe that it is important to conduct genetic testing. This testing can show potential risks for addiction through parental genes.
The National Institutes of Health has created a program known as the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K), which helps scientists conduct more research. This research could show us more about the roles that genes play in certain diseases.
Your genetic makeup can also affect the way that you respond to drug treatment. This happens because your genes affect the number of receptors within your brain. To combat this, there is an emerging field of science called pharmacogenetics. Pharmacogenetics is used to help medical professionals better understand the right medications for each patient based on their genetic makeup.
Lifestyle Factors Play a Role in Substance Abuse, Too
Along with genes your lifestyle also can have an impact on developing a SUD. This can include your direct environment meaning where you live, the people you interact with, and the activities you participate in your everyday life.
Constantly being exposed to a negative environment can have an impact on your brain, which can lead to changes in your behavior. Also, early experimentation with substance abuse is a known indicator of addiction later in life. Many people start experimenting with inhalants before moving on to harder drugs.
Your childhood experiences are very important. If you were exposed to violence, abuse, or neglect at a young age, it could have caused a severe hindrance to your brain development. This includes:
Social and emotional skills
Living in poverty or having a low socioeconomic status can also put you at risk of developing a SUD. If you had a parent or caregiver growing up that struggled with their mental health, this could potentially lead to a SUD.
Substances are often used to mask the symptoms of a mental health condition, leading to the development of SUD. Some examples can be schizophrenia, personality disorders, or major depression. This combination of a mental health condition with a co-occurring mental health disorder is called a dual diagnosis.
Can You Prevent Addiction from Developing?
The quick answer is yes, you can. Just because addiction may run in your family does not mean that you will develop this disease. It is important to understand how you can take care of yourself to lower your risks, regardless of potential risk.
Learn to manage your stress.
This is especially the case if your stress level or frequency is high. There are many different things you can try, such as frequent exercise, meditation, and certain breathing techniques.
Seek help from your community.
This can be close friends or family, your church, or a therapist. Having people to talk to and open up with about these things can help.
Do your research.
Research addiction and genetics so you can start to understand why this happens, and maybe there will be more updated information throughout the years.
An inpatient drug treatment program is better for more severe SUD because this involves around-the-clock monitoring through living in a treatment center. There are a lot of benefits to this option, including having a community of professionals and peers as well as more treatment options.
If you have less of an open schedule, then an outpatient program might work better. With this option, you can still live at home the majority of the time and then treatment times can work around your schedule.
For example, if you work during the day then you can attend group therapy after work. Flexible treatment schedules can really help you recover from addiction.
Genetic or Not, Drug Addiction is Treatable at The Edge Treatment Center
If you or a loved one is struggling with SUD, it is important to reach out to The Edge Treatment Center and take that first step to start treatment.
The most important step is to start detox. This fresh start is the process of detoxifying your body from the toxins from the addiction. Detoxification isn’t easy, but this is why it is important to find a treatment center that is right for you. The Edge Treatment Center partners with the best drug detox centers in the country to ensure you’re comfortable and safe during drug and alcohol detox.
Once you've completed the first step, we’ll help you through the rest of your journey through drug rehab. The Edge will partner with you through your entire recovery journey, and beyond.
In the end, there is always help for you or a loved one. Contact The Edge Treatment Center today to learn more.