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Are You Predisposed to Addiction?

The question of whether addiction is genetic is part of the long-raging nature vs. nurture argument. Like most other questions in this debate, the answer seems to be that addiction is a bit of both. Studies of twins have shown that for identical twins, if one sibling is alcoholic, there is a high probability the other is alcoholic too. In fraternal twins the probability is much lower. These studies indicate that genes bear about half the responsibility for addiction.

Other studies show that children of addicts are eight times more likely to become addicts themselves. This increased likelihood reflects a combination of nature and nurture. Not only have these people inherit the genetic predisposition to addiction, but they also learned addictive behavior, and they probably didn’t learn behaviors that might have protected them from addiction.

When we talk about addiction being genetic, that doesn’t mean there is one gene that flips the addiction switch. Bodies are complex and brains are even more complex and there may be thousands of different genes that influence addictive behavior. For example, if your liver can’t metabolize alcohol efficiently and you get sick every time you drink, you aren’t likely to become an alcoholic. On the other hand, studies have shown that mice with a high level of a certain neuropeptide in their brains are much less likely to drink. In both cases, genes have reduced the likelihood of alcoholism, but the mechanisms are completely different.

To say there is a genetic component to addiction also does not mean that having a parent who is an addict necessarily means you will also be an addict. A genetic predisposition means you are more likely to become an addict if other conditions are met. These other conditions include things like trauma or abuse, depression, lack of social support, or being around people who abuse drugs. If you are aware of these risk factors and can find ways to deal with them, you are much less likely to become addicted.

The converse is also true. You may have little genetic predisposition to addiction, but if you try hard enough, you can still become addicted. If you persist in drinking regularly, you will probably become an alcoholic eventually. You can become addicted much more quickly to drugs like cocaine or opioids. It’s best not to take for granted that you “don’t have an addictive personality.”

You should also consider the possibility that you do have a genetic disposition and you just don’t know about it. Families often go to great lengths to hide addiction. Unless you live with an addict who is not in recovery, you may not know there is an addict in your family. It’s not something people like to talk about. Your grandfather is not going to set you on his knee and tell you about the time he went on a bender and accidentally burned his house down. The more you know about your family history of addiction, the better you can guard against possible traps.

If you are still struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help. We offer medically assisted detox in a comfortable facility and we can help you decide the best way to move forward with your treatment. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.