Is Drug and Alcohol Addiction Genetic?

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When some people try alcohol or drugs for the first time, it starts a cycle of addiction that can last many years, and in some cases, a lifetime. For other people, trying alcohol and drugs may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience– that is, they try the substance once in their lifetime, and never do so again. Yet others occupy a middle ground– being able to use a substance on occasion throughout their lives, without ever becoming addicted or dependent on it.  

These extreme differences in reactions to the same drug have led medical and scientific researches to wonder if these variations are caused by more than just personal choices and individual preferences. Perhaps, they thought, the source of addiction isn’t in our choices– but in our genes.

So, what’s the truth? Is drug and alcohol addiction a choice or is it predetermined by your genetic makeup before you’re born? Let’s take a look.

Both Genetics and Environment Play Significant Roles in Addiction

After years of research, many in the scientific and medical community now believe that addiction is caused 50% by genetic predispositions and 50% by environmental factors. There is no one gene that will make an individual more likely to suffer from alcoholism or drug addiction instead, a great number of genes, combined with a large variety of environmental influences conspire to determine a person’s specific risk for addictive and compulsive behaviors.

Despite the Role of Genetics, Addiction is Still a Choice

While people with certain genetic backgrounds may be more susceptible to drug addictions and alcoholism, that doesn’t mean that their futures are written in stone. Anyone can make the personal choice to either avoid drugs and alcohol or, if currently using them, to quit at any time, regardless of their genetic makeup.

Just as someone who is predisposed to heart disease at an early age may get into great physical shape and live a long life, and a short athlete may become an excellent basketball player, the lives of those who may be predisposed to drug and alcohol addiction are completely up to them. However, it may be significantly more difficult for those with a predisposition to addiction to change their behaviors, especially without professional help.

Those with Genetic Predispositions May be in Greater Need of Substance Abuse Treatment

If you have multiple close family members who are suffering, or who have suffered in the past from drug addiction or alcoholism, you’re likely to be at higher risk for experiencing addiction yourself. If you currently are experiencing a substance use problem, the fact that your genetics may be working against you means that it’s even more important to attend an accredited substance abuse treatment or drug and alcohol rehab program. This is because it will likely be more difficult for you to quit on your own– and you may also be at a greater risk for relapse once you have already become sober.

Take Back Control of Your Life with Substance Abuse Treatment 

No matter what your genes say, you have the power to conquer an addiction to alcohol and drugs. At the Restore, our substance abuse treatment and drug and alcohol rehab programs empower participants to heal their mind, body, and spirit with help from counselors, teachers, fellow patients, and program alumni. Visit our addiction treatment center in Thousand Oaks, CA at 6918 Owensmouth Ave Canoga Park, CA 91303. 24/7 Admissions (818) 722-9019. On-Site Contact (818) 806-3914.


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