Do genetics play a role in addiction?

For years, there has been some debate as to how much genetics plays a role in addiction. Many believe that genetics is a key indicator in the likelihood of developing a dependency to drugs or alcohol, while others discredit the idea. They believe substance use is a choice that leads to dependency.

To a degree, both are correct. A family shared their story. The father was an alcoholic. It’s not known if there was a history of substance abuse in his family. The mother would drink, socially, with the father. She never became dependent on alcohol and when they divorced, she seldom drank. The family had three children. The oldest recognized early that his father was an alcoholic and made the choice to never try illicit drugs or alcohol in case he carried a genetic marker that would predispose him for an addiction.

The middle child began drinking as a teenager. While she did not appear to have a dependency, she had a tendency to binge drink on weekends. In her early 20’s, she was introduced to cocaine and claimed she was hooked from the first hit. She bounced in and out of jail and treatment centers for the better part of the next 10 years before finally accepting a life of recovery.

Finally, the youngest child settled in the middle. She had moderate experience with illicit drugs and alcohol. She enjoyed the drugs when they were a novelty and then “grew up” and dropped them from her lifestyle. She still enjoys a beer at the ballgame, a Champagne toast or a nice bottle of wine with dinner.

According to National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency, Inc., while researchers have found ties to genetics and a risk for dependency on drugs and/or alcohol, there is not a specific gene that will designate if one person is more likely to become an addict and another is not.

Bottom line, if there is a history of addiction in your family, you may want to be extra vigilant when it comes to speaking to your kids about the danger of drugs and alcohol and monitoring their behaviors. Even what seems like regular teen behavior may not manifest into a problem until adulthood.

Related blog:  Recovery is a Process

Pathways provides 28-day and extended care treatment programs for adults with substance use disorders. In addition to engaging clients in the 12-Step process, the program also focuses on setting boundaries, developing coping skills and handling trauma. If you, or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, contact Pathways for more information at 855-349-5988.