Understanding The Relationship Between Genetics & Addiction

When a loved one experiences an addiction, it’s natural for family members to be concerned or just curious as to whether or not they’re susceptible to a similar addiction. Genetics do play a role when it comes to addiction, but it’s not as black and white as one might think. There’s no single gene that determines if an individual will experience and suffer from addictions. But there are certain genetic aspects that can tell a great deal about the risks for addiction. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Genetics?

Genetics are the codes and instructions in every living being’s DNA that manifests the makeup of living beings. Our genes make us who we are, literally. They determine our height, our eye color, our hair color, and more. And much of this is passed on to us from our parents.

Our DNA has code within it that is the blueprint for building and creating our genetic makeup. In addition to genes we inherit from our parents, there are also genetic variations that may make us more susceptible to certain diseases or illnesses—one of these being addiction.

Addiction & Genetics

Our genes follow certain trends. Sometimes, these trends lean more toward compulsive behavior than others. The relationship between genetics and addiction falls in large part upon a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is found in the reward and pleasure center of the brain. When we do something that brings us reward or pleasure, we tend to want to keep doing it to recreate that feeling.

Some individuals do have genetic variations that alter the way dopamine functions and is processed in the brain. This means that some individuals will be more susceptible to compulsive behavior to obtain a dopamine release. This includes addictive behaviors, like substance abuse.

Susceptibility, But Not Inevitability

Just because a person has a close relative who suffers from an addiction, it doesn’t mean that they are bound to suffer from addiction as well. It may mean, however, that one is more biologically susceptible to forming an addiction—because of the way dopamine is processed in their brain. The risk is higher, but that does not guarantee anything.

However, there are many other factors that can cause or help to avoid forming an addiction. Psychological, cultural, and environmental factors play a role in addictions as well. Similarly, the status of one’s own relationships and family situation, community and educational opportunity, and personal experiences can also increase one’s risk for developing an addiction.

Not Causal, But Not Unrelated

Though one’s genetics do play a role in determining risk for addictions, they certainly don’t guarantee that a person will form an addiction. This simply means that, should you have a history of addiction in your family, it will pay to be aware of other risk factors that may put you or a loved one at greater risk.

Consider A Sober Living Environment

If you are struggling to stay clean and sober, a sober living environment may be right for you. The Sanctuary Recovery Foundation offers men’s sober living residences in the beautiful coastal region of Charleston, SC.

Contact us today. We would love to talk to you about how we can help.