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Is Drug Addiction Genetic?

Factors that May Cause Addiction, Genetic Testing & How to Overcome Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Does Addiction Run in Your Genes?

Is drug addiction genetic? Why do some people become addicted while others don’t? Family studies that include identical twins, fraternal twins, adoptees, and siblings suggest that as much as half of a person’s risk of becoming addicted to nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs depends on his or her genetic makeup or inherited traits. Finding the biological basis for this risk is an important avenue of research for scientists trying to solve the problem of drug addiction.

The risk of developing drug and alcohol problems is higher in children whose parents abuse alcohol or drugs—but it is NOT a guarantee. Research shows that children with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs are more likely to try alcohol or drugs and develop alcoholism or drug addiction. Why?

Is Drug Addiction Genetic?
Is drug addiction genetic? Although genes can make you more prone to addiction, the disease can be avoided by taking precautions.
  • Children whose parents abuse alcohol and drugs are more likely to have behavioral problems, which increases the risk of trying alcohol or drugs. They are also exposed to more opportunities to try these substances.
  • Plus, children of parents who abuse drugs may inherit a genetic predisposition (or greater likelihood) for addiction—having an “addictive personality,” so to speak.

Is drug addiction genetic? Most children of parents who abuse alcohol or drugs do not develop alcoholism or addiction themselves, so your genes do not write your destiny to become addicted to drugs. BUT to avoid that risk entirely, it’s best not to start, and if you’ve already tried drugs or alcohol, stop now. [1]

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Is There an Addictive Gene? How are Addiction Genes Tested?

Genetic tests are done using a blood or spit sample and results are usually ready in a few weeks. Because we share DNA with our family members, if you are found to have a genetic change, your family members may have the same change. Genetic counseling before and after genetic testing can help make sure that you are the right person in your family to get a genetic test, you’re getting the right genetic test, and that you understand your results. [2]

Reasons for Genetic Testing

  • To learn whether you have a genetic condition that runs in your family before you have symptoms
  • To learn about the chance a current or future pregnancy will have a genetic condition
  • To diagnose a genetic condition if you or your child has symptoms
  • To understand and guide your cancer prevention or treatment plan

Environmental Factors that Impact Addiction

Is drug addiction genetic? Accumulating evidence suggests that environmental factors, such as stress, induce epigenetic changes that can trigger the development of psychiatric disorders and drug addiction. Epigenetic changes refer to regulations of gene expression that do not involve alterations in the sequence of the genetic material (DNA) itself. Practically, epigenetic changes are information that is added to already existing genetic material but can affect the expression of genes.

A stressful situation, such as the death of a significant other or the loss of a job, triggers the release of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids. Those stress hormones trigger alterations in many systems throughout the body, induce epigenetic changes, and regulate the expression of other genes in the brain. One of the systems that are affected by stress hormones is the brain’s reward circuitry. The interaction between stress hormones and the reward system can trigger the development of addiction, as well as a stress-induced relapse in drug or alcohol recovery. [3]

Is Drug Addiction Genetic?
Is drug addiction genetic? Growing up in a family with substance abuse can cause deep psychological and emotional scars. 

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Are Genes Related to Addiction?

Is drug addiction genetic? Genetics is the study of genes. Genes are functional units of DNA that make up the human genome. They provide the information that directs a body’s basic cellular activities. Research on the human genome has shown that, on average, the DNA sequences of any two people are 99.9 percent the same. However, that 0.1 percent variation is profoundly important—it accounts for three million differences in the nearly three billion base pairs of DNA sequences! These differences contribute to visible variations, like height and hair color, and invisible traits, such as the increased risk for or protection from certain diseases such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and drug addiction. [4]

Over the last decade, the prevalence of opioid addiction has increased to epidemic levels, but therapeutic interventions for addiction treatment remain limited. [5] We need to better understand the triggers for the development of addiction to develop more targeted prevention and treatments.

One of the critical questions that researchers in neuropsychiatry are trying to answer is why some people are more vulnerable to addiction. As in most psychiatric disorders, genetic and environmental factors determine how vulnerable or likely, you are to develop a substance use disorder.

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Is Drug Addiction Genetic?

This question can lead to a response that blends both genetics and behaviors learned in a home environment rife with substance abuse. The conclusion reached by various studies shows that hereditary background and family history of substance abuse, while not a guarantee for substance abuse development, increases your chances of the disorder.

In individuals who are vulnerable to addiction, repetitive exposure to the agent induces long-lasting neuroadaptive changes that further promote drug-seeking behavior and ultimately lead to persistent and uncontrolled patterns of use that constitute addiction. These neuroadaptive changes are the basis for tolerance, craving, and withdrawal and lead to a motivational shift. Motivation for drug-seeking behavior is initially driven by impulsivity and positive reward.

The use and abuse of legal and illegal psychoactive substances is a worldwide public health priority with repercussions on individuals, their families, and society. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol subtracts 69.4 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs); tobacco, 59.1 million; and illicit drugs, 12.2 million. From an economic perspective, the cost of substance use and SUDs in the United States is approximately $484 billion/year, which is comparable to the cost of diabetes ($131.7 billion/year) and cancer ($171.6 billion/year). [6]

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We Level Up is a multi-faceted primary drug and alcohol dual diagnosis program treating secondary co-occurring mental health conditions. Our team uses evidence-based proven methods to generate cutting-edge solutions to substance abuse and behavioral health challenges. With support programs targeted towards families and individuals. We work to improve the health of the public and of individuals from every behavioral and related integrated addiction primary and mental health secondary treatment option. This includes constant research and innovation on substance abuse and integrated co-occurring mental health treatment models paired with individuals in a conducive environment.

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Detox Program

Withdrawal from substances of abuse is an important first step to overcoming your addiction. However, withdrawal isn’t an effective treatment by itself. You’ll need further treatment and support to help you in the long term.  [7]

Often, drugs and alcohol can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms. However, proper care and medical supervision will greatly reduce the chances of developing these symptoms and ensure a safe detox process.

Is Drug Addiction Genetic?
Is drug addiction genetic? When we have a family history of addiction, it can be wise to rely on professionals for guidance.

Once fully admitted and evaluated, the 2nd stage of detox gets underway:  stabilization.  Based on the data provided during the admissions process, patient feedback, and the symptoms observed;  our experienced team of medical addiction professionals will provide care to keep the patient stable and as comfortable as possible. [8]

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a widely used treatment for alcohol abuse and addiction to help individuals identify negative thought patterns, emotions, and problematic behaviors and learn how to make healthy lifestyle changes that decrease the urges to drink alcohol and use other substances; paying particular attention to symptoms of psychosis, depression, and other co-existing mental health-related problems or dual diagnosis that are exacerbated by stress.

Counseling Services

Individual, group and family counseling services are offered in the majority of mental health and substance abuse treatment programs to “get to the root of the problems”, improve communications and relationships, and motivate the abuser toward positive changes. . The structured guidance of a counselor helps the patient stay on track and in the right perspectives as they strive to achieve their potentials and goals of recovery.

Our FREE 24-hour Hotline can help you with the resources for any questions such as “Is drug addiction genetic?“. Get a free consultation now for your best-fitting treatment programs along with free rehab insurance verification. Call We Level Up today and speak with one of our addiction specialists to check your rehab insurance coverage and benefits.

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[1,6] The Genetic Basis of Addictive Disorders – National Center for Biotechnology Information
[2] Genetic Testing – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
[3,5] Your genes and addiction –
[4] Genetics and Epigenetics of Addiction DrugFacts – National Institute on Drug Abuse
[7] Alcohol Misuse –
[8] Stabilization Treatment Program – We Level Up New Jersey

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