Medically Reviewed by:
Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD MPH on 7/9/2021
Are Addictions Genetic?
The short answer to this question is yes. Like many other chronic diseases, addictions pass down through genes. Genetics is the study of genes. Scientists continue to identify and study genes that are likely to make a person vulnerable to addiction. So how does genetic play a role in addiction?
Genetic studies show that 40-60% of a person’s risk of developing addiction directly links to genes. So while other factors such as the environment have a considerable effect on an individual’s likelihood of addiction, genetics play an even more important role.
It’s the nature vs. nurture idea that comes into play here. Our nature often passes down to us through our genes, but our environment also has a major impact.
Growing up in an environment that is dysfunctional and having genes that make addiction vulnerabilities provides a substantial challenge. It’s like being hit from all sides, and many succumb to addiction.
It is more than just an “addiction gene,” though. Other genes play a role in determining how well you can handle stress. Your ability to handle stress can certainly lead to drug and alcohol addictions, especially if no other coping mechanisms are developed.
Jump to the Answers You Need:
Learn From My Own Genetic Risk for Addiction Report
So first, a little bit about me. I’ve been in recovery for almost six years. I have a family history of addiction, primarily on my father’s side. I’m Hispanic and Northwestern European (German mostly).
I recently took an Ancestry DNA test and uploaded my genetic data to a service that gave me an insightful and overwhelming amount of information about my genetic makeup.
Here are the genes found in my DNA profile that gave me a high risk of addiction.
Hispanics who carry this gene have a 14x higher risk of developing a heroin addiction.
The genes of Caucasians who struggled with opioid/heroin addiction were studied. The rs3766951(A, A) gene showed a high association with opioid addiction. This study was not exhaustive but pointed to a correlation and is worthy of further study.
The rs17584278(A; C) gene is associated with a high risk of nicotine addiction and lung cancer.
This gene has been shown in studies to come with a higher risk of developing ADHD, along with an increased risk of cocaine dependence in European Americans if other genes are present.
This gene expression is linked to the development of alcoholism. Additionally, cognitive dysfunction is a risk that is associated with carrying this gene.
This gene has significant associations with the development of cocaine or alcohol dependence. Additionally, it points to other risks such as heroin addiction.
Is there a specific gene for addiction?
No, there is not a specific gene for addiction. We could only wish that it would be that simple to pinpoint. Our genetics are already highly complex. The are several genes and gene combinations that predispose people towards addiction.
Even so, scientists continue to identify these genes and how they work together. This comes through the sum of information deciphered from individual studies. And specific genetic studies related to addiction.
Your Genes Are Not Just Working Against You
An important thing to remember is that while there are genes that put you at risk for the development of addiction, other genes are working in your favor.
For example, while 1/3 of my genes put me at high risk for developing diseases such as addiction, 3/4 of my genes have shown positive associations in studies. Also, it’s highly important to remember that not all studies are considered fully solid or reliable.
How Knowing Your Genetic Risk for Addiction Can Help You
Learning about your genes can give you a special insight into your specific triggers. For example, suppose you find in your DNA genetic makeup profile that stress is an issue for you due to several different gene expressions. In that case, you can focus intently on developing better stress coping mechanisms.
If you learn that you may have ADHD-related addiction or cognitive dysfunction, you can focus on bettering your focus or finding an alternative treatment that’s proven to be effective.
However, remember! You’re not just the sum of the genes that you carry in your body. The course of your life does not need to be set in stone based on your genetics.
Addiction treatment programs exist to help you overcome those predispositions and replace addiction with healthy living in recovery.
What to Do if You’re Struggling with Addiction
If you’re struggling with addiction, you have to reach out for help. At the same time, it can seem as though the odds continue to stack against you. Whether from your genes, upbringing, and experiences, you must know that there is hope. It sounds cliche, but it’s true.
There is an amazing life to experience beyond the confines of addiction. Break the chains today by giving us a call at (888)906-0952 and getting a free consultation. There’s no obligation to be admitted, but we can help guide you in the right direction.
About the Author
Susana has over 6 years of experience writing content about addiction, mental health, recovery, and treatment. She’s been in recovery for over 5 years, after battling addictions that sought to claim her life. Susana specializes in Organic SEO and Content Marketing and utilizes her experiences to create impactful, insightful, and educational content. Connect with her on Linked-in.
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