Is Addiction Hereditary?

There’s no doubt that addiction or chemical dependency and genetics are correlated; this knowledge is being backed by years of extensive research.
However, researchers don’t understand exactly how genetics influence addiction, but treatment continues to improve as more knowledge is gained about the complex interaction of genes, the brain and chemical dependency.
Chemical Dependency (CD) is a complex disease and genetics might in many cases be only one of many contributing factors:

  • Researchers estimate that addiction might be 40 to 60 percent attributable to genetics. The other percentage is attributable to environment, personal experiences and other factors. CD is often the combination of substance, setting/social environment and personality traits.
  • Everybody has the potential to become addicted to drugs, alcohol or destructive behaviors such as gambling or pornography.
  • Women who grow up in an addictive family often develop a food addiction or dependence on prescription drugs.
  • Children of addicts are eight times more likely to develop an addiction than children of non-addicts.
  • One study followed several sets of twins who were adopted by separate families. The twins, children of an alcoholic parent, displayed a much higher likelihood of becoming addicted as adults.
  • This doesn’t mean that every person with an addictive family member is doomed to become addicted. Many people from addictive families never develop an addiction.
  • Personal beliefs about addiction are an important contributing factor. People who believe they are destined to become addicted might thus change their minds.
  • There is no specific gene or group of genes that determines who will or not develop an addiction. Even siblings who carry the same genes have extensive biological differences and won’t necessarily develop the same traits.
  • However, scientists have identified specific genes that may play a role in CD. This knowledge improves treatment and helps determine which therapies may be most effective.
  • Experts believe that that although much is unknown about genetics and addiction, further research will reveal more information.
  • An important fact to keep in mind is that addiction is a chronic disease that has nothing to do with willpower, strength, personal success or character. However, unless it is treated, addiction always gets worse; never better.
  • Treatment is most likely to be successful if all contributing factors are addressed: the person’s emotional and physical health, the setting and last but not least, the substance.

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