There is a genetic component that contributes to whether a person becomes addicted to drugs and alcohol. According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, the initial choice to use drugs or alcohol is influenced by many factors, but whether that initial use turns into addiction is determined in part by genetics and family history.
What the Research Shows About Genetics and Addiction
Research has shown that genetics–the makeup of a person’s DNA–accounts for about 50 percent of the risk of developing an addiction, which means that it is a major influence on addiction. Although 99.9 percent of human DNA is the same for everyone, there are still three million genes that can have variations or mutations. A mutation or expression on one or more of those genes can lead to a greater likelihood of addiction.
The fact that addiction seems to run in families is clearly shown in research, but the genes that influence the development of addiction seem to be a complex combination that has been difficult to pinpoint.
The way genes express themselves and are influenced by environmental factors is an ongoing subject of study in the microbiological community, but recent studies have shown that stressful conditions in a person’s environment can impact gene expression, sometimes for the rest of a person’s life.
For those who are already predisposed to abuse alcohol or drugs, the stress of living with a parent who does so may make it even more likely that they will end up addicted themselves. Even other stresses that children and young adults are routinely exposed to may push them into addiction more easily than someone who does not have a genetic predisposition to it. The study of how genetics is influenced by someone’s environment is known as epigenetics.
To some extent, everyone is genetically predisposed toward addiction because evolutionary processes encourage everyone to repeat experiences that are pleasurable, such as eating our favorite foods or using drugs or alcohol.
Dealing With a Genetic Predisposition to Addiction
Coloradoans who have a genetic predisposition to addiction should not come to the conclusion that they are predestined toward addiction or that they do not have a choice about whether they continue to use drugs or alcohol. Overcoming addiction is possible for those whose genetics predispose them to it.
Although the urge or compulsion to use addictive substances is strong, treatment is effective in helping users control their addiction and follow a different path in recovery. By studying a person’s genes, treatment methods can be pinpointed specifically to their needs and increase the chances of success.
Knowing that you or a loved one has a genetic predisposition toward addiction should not stop you from getting the help you (or they) need. Recovery is possible for anyone with addictive behaviors. Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is a Colorado drug rehab treatment facility where those struggling with addiction can find help and hope. Contact us for more information about our programs and all we can do to help you combat addiction.