Many people often talk about addiction, especially those with a family history or genetic or inherited traits, and are curious to know the factors that play a role in addiction. Is addiction genetic or learned? Some people may indeed feel they have a genetic disposition to addiction, sometimes called substance use disorder. This is a medical condition ruled by the uncontrollable use of substances despite knowing the negative effect of it. However, people with genetic disposition are unsure of developing an addiction, and many often ask if is addiction hereditary. Addiction as a genetic disorder begins with recognizing that it is a chronic relapsing brain disorder. It’s similar to having a family history of heart disease or diabetes in many ways.

Research shows that genetics have somewhere between a 40% and 60% influence on addiction, and alcohol addiction is about 50% hereditary. In contrast, addiction to other drugs is as much as 70% hereditary. Genetics is just one factor of the many things that can impact your overall risk. Even if you or a friend is struggling with addiction, hereditary factors are not a life sentence or something to be scared about. Getting your life back on track is possible through recovery with professionals. 

What is a Genetic Predisposition to Addiction?

Genetic predisposition is an increased chance or likelihood of developing a particular condition based on genetics or family history suggestive of an increased risk of the ailment. Many genetic predispositions are passed on through family genealogies, and lifestyle or environmental factors can also impact or increase the risk of being addicted. Many chronic conditions and complex diseases have either a suspected or known genetic basis, including addiction to alcohol and drug abuse. Along with addiction, other disorders with genetic links include:

  • Cardiovascular diseases like coronary artery disease
  • Cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • Psychiatric diseases 

Three signs to show that you are genetically disposed to addiction

1. Your Parents Struggle with Substance Use

If you are parents who constantly use drugs or alcohol, it can signify your predisposition to addiction. Again, this doesn’t mean it’s written in stone that you’ll develop an addiction, but it plays a significant role. Along with genetics, there are other reasons that children of people who struggle with addiction are more likely to have a substance use problem. For example, parents using substances may not provide a loving, supportive environment. People who use drugs or alcohol may be more likely to be unstable or violent, which are risk factors for addiction.

2. You Find It Hard to Limit Your Drinking

Drinking alcohol from time to time doesn’t mean that you have an addiction. Many people can have a glass of wine and then stop drinking. If you’re someone that doesn’t feel like you can stop when you start drinking, it can be a red flag of an underlying problem.

One of the acute symptoms of addiction is finding it difficult to stop drinking or cut down even when you want to or even when it has adverse effects.

3. It’s Hard for You to Deal with Stress

When you don’t have strong coping skills or are not resilient when dealing with stress, it may be due to the genetics of your mental health. People with anxiety, coping mechanisms, or mental health disorders are exposed to a higher risk of addiction. This effect occurs because people may use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Addiction can take many forms, including drugs, alcohol, gambling, and pornography. To fully understand this complex condition, one must ask, “can addiction be genetic?” And just as an addict’s drug of choice varies, so does the cause and effect of addiction. While a predisposition to addiction may raise your risk, there are many modifiable risk factors and ways to overcome the genetics of addiction. 

If you are struggling with hereditary addiction or want to know more about it, contact the Blanchard institute. We offer detox and ongoing treatment for alcoholism and co-occurring mental health disorders.