Is Addiction Hereditary?

June 4th, 2019

This is one of the most commonly asked questions both inside and outside of the addiction community. The short answer is that many studies have presented evidence that there is a connection between genetic endowment and addiction to drugs and alcohol. Numerous studies have shown the cause of addiction can be broken down to 50% genetic. Furthermore, studies have found that children of addicts are up to 8 times more likely to develop an addiction in their lifetime. 

When it comes to genetic endowment and addiction, there are specific genes that influence alcoholism and they can be explained in various ways. 

Smaller Amygdala: People who have a family history of alcoholism have been shown in some studies to have a smaller than average amygdala. This is the part of the brain that likely plays a role in the emotions associated with cravings. 

Warning Signs: People who have a genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse may have differently programmed neurological warning signals from their brain or body when they should stop drinking. 

Abnormal Serotonin Levels: Serotonin is one of the most important mood-regulating neurotransmitters and it is often associated closely with depression. Unusual levels of serotonin have been commonly found in people who are genetically predisposed to alcohol use disorder. 

Other Factors At Play 

Numerous studies have shown that the cause of addiction is broken down to 50% genetic and 50% issues with coping skills. Another factor that could play a part in an individual being predisposed to alcohol use disorder is their history of mental illness. The National Bureau of Economic Research states that there is a connection between mental illness and the usage of addictive substances. Ultimately, mental health disorders and addiction are often co-occurring diseases. This can be because medications prescriber to treat mental illness can often be addiction, or the mental health patient tends to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

A history of abuse can also play a big part in someone’s risk at becoming an addict. Children who were raised in emotionally stressful homes, whether it be physical, emotional or sexual abuse, are at a higher risk of developing alcohol use disorder than other adults. This sort of abuse can often happen in adulthood as well and without the right coping skills to handle such trauma, these events can often lead to addiction. 

What Does This Mean For Me? 

Does this mean that if one of your parents battled addiction that you will too? No! Many people who watched a parent battle addiction struggle with the fear that their own fate is inevitable, but this is simply not the case. Each individual is in control on their own destiny and genetics do not determine your individual actions. If you are someone who is genetically predisposed to addiction, it is important to make a conscious effort to avoid drugs and over indulging in alcohol. At the end of the day, everyone has the potential to form an addiction. Coping skills, communication and thoughtful prevention can help anyone overcome a genetic predisposition to drug and alcohol addiction. 

At Windmill Wellness Ranch, we understand that there are many factors at play that effect an individual and their path to addiction. It is so important to us to get to know each individual on a deeper level in order to understand the root cause of their addiction and come up with an individualized treatment plan in order to treat it.

Contact us today to get you or your loved one the help they need and allow us to get them on the path to recovery.