Is Addiction Genetic?

March 14, 2008

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Alcoholism and drug addiction appear to run in families, but is it really a genetic disease? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “addiction has a moderate to high heritable component.” This helps to explain why some people can abuse certain substances and quit relatively easily, while others go through addiction treatment programs multiple times and still relapse. Some people become addicted the first time they try a drug, but other people can be casual users.

Researchers are still trying to discover exactly which genes contribute to how likely a person is to have an addictive personality. This could allow them to create new medications for addiction treatment and possibly make addiction recovery a simpler process for those who have the gene.

However, while genetics play a large role in drug and alcohol addiction, this doesn’t explain the whole picture. The National Institute on Drug Abuse also says that addiction is a genetic disease which is triggers by environmental factors. The family situation that a person grew up in has a big effect on whether they will suffer from alcoholism or drug addiction as an adult. Children of addicts are influenced by their parents’ actions as well as their genes. Some of the other things that contribute to addiction are how much stress and anxiety a person experiences, how easily they can get drugs and alcohol, and their friends and social life.

Everyone who has a parent with alcoholism or drug addiction doesn’t automatically end up with those same problems. Likewise, some addicts are the only one in their families with substance abuse problems.

There are many factors that contribute to addiction, and genetic predisposition is definitely one of them. However, addicts must still take responsibility for their actions. The best way to do so is to get professional help at a treatment center.

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