December 20, 2019

Is Addiction Hereditary?

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Many people, especially those with a family history of addiction, have questions like “Is addiction genetic? “, or “Am I at risk for addiction if it runs in my family?”. 

While genetics can play a significant role in addiction, some people are more predisposed to addiction than others. While your genes and environment do contribute to addictive tendencies, genetics is just one of many factors underpinning substance use disorder, the clinical term for addiction. 

Read on to learn more about the addiction gene and find out how to connect with compassionate and evidence-based care.

Hereditary vs. Genetic Addiction

Genetics is the scientific study of genes and heredity. Genes are segments of DNA inherited from parents that determine specific traits and are located on chromosomes. Humans have about about 20,000 genes organized on 46 chromosomes, split into 23 pairs. Each person inherits one chromosome per pair from each parent randomly. Most people share about 50% of their genes with direct relatives like parents, siblings, and children.

Heredity is the process by which traits are passed from parents to children through genetic information in the DNA sequence. This transmission can influence traits such as height and eye color. While heredity can determine certain traits, not all traits are purely genetic—the environment also influences the expression of genes.

Having a family history of addiction, then, does not mean that someone will develop an addiction themselves. Genetic predisposition accounts for about half of the risk, with environmental influences, social influences, and repeated drug exposure making up the other half.

Is There an Addictive Gene?

Research into the genetic basis of addiction is expansive and ongoing, identifying not just a single addiction gene, but many different genes that contribute to substance-specific dependencies and overall susceptibility to substance use disorder. These include:

  • Metabolic genes: ADH1B (alcohol dehydrogenase 1B) and ALDH2 (aldehyde dehydrogenase 2) are genes that govern alcohol metabolism. Variations in these genes can cause adverse reactions to alcohol which may deter alcohol use and act as a protective barrier against alcoholism.

  • Genes linked to alcohol use disorder: The GABRA2 and CHRM2 genes are associated with the risk of developing early-onset alcoholism.

  • Stress resilience genes: Genes like MAOA, SLC6A4, and COMT are associated with stress resilience. Individual variations in these genes can influence how a person responds to stress, potentially affecting their risk for addiction when combined with environmental factors.

  • Genes linked to marijuana use disorder: CHRNA2 has been studied for its role in marijuana use disorder, with lower expression levels linked to increased risk.

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Is Addiction a Disease or a Choice?

One of the ongoing debates in understanding addiction is whether it is fundamentally a disease or a choice. 

While it’s true that the initial decision to use a substance is usually made freely, what happens afterward is often beyond a person’s control. Addiction is widely recognized as a chronic disease, similar to diabetes or heart disease. Substance abuse alters the structure and function of the brain, especially in areas related to pleasure and reward. This means that addiction is defined as compulsive substance use regardless of negative outcomes.

The view of addiction purely as a choice overlooks the nuanced and involuntary nature of these brain changes. After the initial use, the process of becoming addicted involves deep neurological transformations that dramatically reduce a person’s control over their actions. The compulsive nature of addiction is driven by these changes, leading to behaviors that persist despite harmful consequences.

Treatment for Addressing Genetics and Addiction

Understanding the genetic factors that contribute to addiction can significantly enhance treatment outcomes. Tailored treatment plans that consider a person’s genetic predisposition alongside other factors can help people to achieve and maintain long-term abstinence from drugs or alcohol. Treatments may include:

  • Medications: Medications that are specifically chosen based on your genetic makeup to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings.

  • Behavioral interventions: Strategies to help modify behavior and manage impulses are often designed considering the genetic aspects of addiction.

  • Preventive measures: Proactive actions, especially for those at high genetic risk, can prevent the development of addiction.

 If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and you suspect a genetic component, don’t hesitate to seek help. 

Call our friendly recovery specialists today at 800-994-2184 to get treatment tailored to your unique genetic profile and start your journey toward recovery.

Is Addiction Hereditary? FAQS

Is substance abuse hereditary?

Yes, substance abuse can have a hereditary component. Studies show that genetics can account for about 40% to 60% of a person’s susceptibility to addiction. This means that if you have family members who have struggled with addiction, you may be at a higher risk 

Is there an addictive gene?

There is no single addictive gene responsible for addiction. Rather, multiple genetic factors may influence a person’s likelihood of developing an addiction. These genes may affect how someone responds to stress, impulsive behavior, or the rewarding effects of addictive substances.

What should I do if I have a predisposition to addiction?

If you know that you have a genetic predisposition to addiction, focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and seek support if required. Engaging with counseling or peer support groups can help manage the risk of addiction.

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Get Addiction Treatment & Family Therapy at Gratitude Lodge

At Gratitude Lodge, we can help you achieve and maintain abstinence regardless of the role of genetics in the development of alcohol addiction or drug addiction.

 Begin your recovery with supervised detoxification to streamline the withdrawal process and help you tackle the issue of physical drug or alcohol dependence. Access medications and continuous care before moving into ongoing inpatient treatment at one of our rehabs in Long Beach or Newport Beach, California.

 All Gratitude Lodge addiction treatment programs offer personalized treatments that include:

  • Family therapy
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Psychotherapy
  • Motivational therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Holistic therapy
  • One-to-one counseling
  • Aftercare planning

For immediate assistance tackling addiction, call Gratitude Lodge at 800-994-2184.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Busse MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox, facilitating the beginnings of a successful recovery at our rehab addiction centers in Orange County, CA.

Drug detox can vary according to the patient’s addiction factors, including the substance abused, how long the addiction has lasted, the patient’s medical condition, if any other disorders are present, and more. Our skilled and credentialed team at Gratitude Lodge work closely with every patient going through drug detox.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse. Alcohol detox may not take as long or produce severe withdrawal symptoms, but it is still an essential beginning to your recovery.

Many patients don’t realize the toxicity of prolonged alcohol abuse and how it affects the body. Alcohol detox at the luxurious rehab addiction centers at Gratitude Lodge leeches your body of these toxins in preparation for successful treatment for drugs and alcohol abuse.
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Holistic Therapy

Our holistic therapy treatments offer a full-scope approach to recovery, addressing your mind, body, and emotions as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. This therapy is designed to help address underlying issues and integrate alternative therapies to promote overall health and well-being.
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An essential part of your treatment experience, we offer individual (CBT and DBT talk therapy) and group addiction treatment counseling to help you explore and address the emotional component of addiction, providing you with the tools, self-awareness, and empowerment you need to maintain recovery.
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Dual Diagnosis

Dual Diagnosis is a highly effective addiction treatment that addresses substance use and mental health disorders simultaneously. Often co-occurring, these disorders are best managed when treated together with specific and targeted therapy.
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Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication-Assisted Treatment provides you with FDA-approved medications to help ease the symptoms of withdrawal while you’re in treatment. This makes the detox process easier and safer, as well as increasing the chances of a successful recovery.
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Sober Living

Sober living provides a supportive and substance-free living environment for your ongoing recovery. We partner with a number of upscale and carefully vetted sober living homes that are available to our clients after inpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment.
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Outpatient Treatment

Once detox and inpatient are complete, we provide an easy transition to outpatient care through our hand-selected partners. This program offers a more flexible approach, allowing you to ease back in to daily life while still receiving frequent & effective care.
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Inpatient treatment provides an intensive and comprehensive addiction treatment program in a structured environment. You will receive 24/7 expert care, therapy, and support as you build your foundation for long-term recovery.
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Drug & Alcohol Detox

A crucial first step in the recovery process, our detox program provides a comfortable, medically supervised environment that addresses the physical aspect of addiction and eliminates substances from your body.

Use Our 24 Hour text line. You can ask questions about our program, the admissions process, and more.