Research into the nature of drug and alcohol addiction has grown tremendously. The science behind addiction has shifted quite a bit in the last century, and it’s now seen as a disease that many people may have a genetic predisposition to. However, the choice to pick up a drink or use drugs is a person’s own, as is their choice to seek treatment.
How Much of Your Susceptibility To Addiction is Genetic?
It’s estimated that your genetics play about 50% of a role in whether or not you’ll develop Substance Use Disorder (SUD) or addiction to alcohol or drugs. Your genes may make you more prone to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, or pick up drugs. But, the actual influence of your genetic makeup is a little more complicated than simply numerical higher odds.
When you consider the nature of addiction, a chronically relapsing brain disorder, it’s easier to see how your family medical history can come into play. A higher likelihood of alcoholism may be just as hereditary as a higher likelihood of cardiac problems. In both scenarios, individuals can make lifestyle choices to mitigate those risks, such as abstaining from alcohol, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly.
Do “Addiction Genes” Exist?
Researchers believe that the genetic component of addiction is based on the inherited levels of dopamine, the “feel good” or reward hormone produced in the brain. Higher dopamine levels can lead to reduced impulse control and may influence more addictive behaviors.
However, just because you may have inherited a high dopamine production doesn’t mean you will automatically become addicted. It does mean, however, that you may need to make proactive lifestyle choices that reduce your chances of developing an addiction.
Addiction: Nature Vs. Nurture
Your family tree isn’t the only factor in whether or not you’ll develop SUD. Your environment and life experiences can also influence addiction. Some common environmental factors that increase the chances of drug or alcohol addiction include:
- Accessibility of drugs or alcohol. For example, children of parents who drink or use drugs have ready access to these substances and may engage in behaviors modeled for them
- Peer pressure or friend influence – as a teen, the desire to fit in is strong
- Trauma or prolonged stress. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network notes a significant connection between substance abuse and exposure to traumatic events, such as domestic abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse
In addition to individual risk factors, there are certain categories of people who have a higher risk of developing an addiction disorder, including:
- People with mental illness, especially PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders
- Those who identify as LGBT. It’s thought that the additional trauma and stress of living through discrimination and bullying because of an LGBT affiliation may increase the risk that these individuals will turn to drugs or alcohol to cope
Again, this does not mean that someone who identifies as LGBT or has a mental illness will become addicted to drugs or alcohol. While there is a higher correlation of people in the above groups developing addiction, it’s not guaranteed they will.
Do You Need Addiction Treatment?
If you’re struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, there is hope and help. Genetic susceptibility to addiction does not mean you cannot be sober and successful in recovery. Hickory Treatment Centers approach addiction treatment holistically and consider treatment for the entire person, not just the addiction. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and for an evaluation of your needs.