Turning to Science for Answers: How Much of a Role Do Genetics Play in Developing an Addiction

If you’ve grown up in a household where you were exposed to one or both parents struggle with addiction, you may find yourself wondering as an adult if you are doomed to repeat your parents’ patterns. You may be struggling with addiction now and wondering if exposure to addiction at a young age influenced you, or is it actually a genetic component that set your future addiction in motion from the moment you were conceived.

The concept of genetics playing a role in developing an addiction can be a terrifying concept for anyone who grew up with a parent or parents who struggled with substance abuse, however, the answer isn’t so cut an dry.

Is addiction genetic?

There is plenty of evidence that shows a connection between genetic endowment and the development of an addiction. There are biological differences that can make someone more or less susceptible to addiction. Certain genes may make it more difficult for people to quit a substance once they start. Sometimes, genetics can also make it harder for people to become addicted to things. For example, there are some genetic components that may make certain people feel ill when drinking or taking drugs when it might make other people feel good.

Is it inevitable?

Having a genetic predisposition towards addiction can be a scary concept. However, even if you are genetically prone to addiction, it does mean that it’s inevitable that you will become an addict. It’s all about understanding the risks that knowing what to look for. You can read more here about that.

Many genes influence addiction and addiction is a very complex disease. What this means is that not every addict will carry the same gene and not every person with an “addiction gene” will end up struggling with substance abuse. The genetics of addiction show that the complex lives of individuals heavily influence whether or not these heredity genes will ultimately cause addiction.

How to avoid it

While genetics do play a role in substance abuse issues, addiction shouldn’t be looked at as a “one size fits all” issue. Addiction is often 50% genetic predisposition mixed with 50% poor coping skills. What this means for you is that your genes and the fate of your family members does not mean your path is set in stone. Understanding at a young age that you may be more susceptible to addiction means it’s a great time to start learning about how to avoid addiction by bulking up your coping skills.

Many people turn to substances like drugs or alcohol to avoid unpleasant feelings or situations, or to cope with low self-worth or depression. Oftentimes, understanding your susceptibility to these negative emotions and tracking how you cope with them is the first step to taking control of your feelings. Healthy coping mechanisms and therapy can create a stable base on which to build your life and will help you avoid the dangers of using drugs or alcohol to ignore your feelings. While your genetics may play a large part is making you more likely to develop an addiction, you are ultimately the master of your own faith.