Many people who have suffered from addiction or have a loved one who does, will likely, one time or another, question whether drug and alcohol addiction are hereditary.
It’s an understandable concern for anyone interested in ending addiction. People want to know if their behavior, or that of their loved ones, suggests that other family members may be at risk of developing an addiction as well.
Scientists have done a lot of research on addiction and genetics. Read on to learn about the results they have found.
Family History of Drug and Alcohol Addiction
There’s a lot of evidence that shows a strong relationship between a family history of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. Researchers found that if a child has, at least, one parent with a drug or alcohol addiction, they are 8 times more likely to develop an addiction when compared to those without a parent suffering from addiction.
Still, that doesn’t answer the question of whether or not addiction is hereditary. A person’s addiction risk comes from a combination of genetic and environmental factors, and for members of the same family, many of the environmental factors are often similar.
To answer the hereditary question, scientists had to dig further into genetic research.
Is There an Addiction Gene?
After completing numerous studies of humans and animals, scientists have found that there are a number of different genes that can affect someone’s risk for addiction. Likewise, some genes can even reduce your risk for addiction.
Here are a few examples:
- People addicted to alcohol or cocaine are more likely to have the A1 allele on their dopamine receptor
- Genes related to psychological disorders such as externalizing psychopathology increase the risk of drug and alcohol addiction
- Alcoholism is rare in people who have two copies of the ALDH*2 gene
- A protective allele on the CYP2AG gene is more common in non-smokers
These are just a few of the many links scientists have found that suggest drug and alcohol addiction is hereditary. More factors are being identified all the time.
Because of the research, it’s generally believed that about 50% of your risk for addiction is due to genetic factors, and 50% is due to your environment and ability to cope.
The Role of Genetics in Treatment
Having a good understanding of how genetics can affect one’s risk for addiction can be very valuable when considering a patient’s best treatment options.
Each person’s treatment needs are different, and knowing what genetic factors are involved can help doctors develop the most targeted treatments for them.
Research has already started on a gene that responds well to a particular drug treatment. Alcoholics without this particular gene don’t benefit from the drug
Though scientists just recently began studying therapeutic medicines that can modify genes, they believe that this technology may help those suffering from addiction to get better faster.
Addiction is Not Inevitable
Because there’s such a strong link between addiction and genetics, some people with a family history might think they’re destined to become addicts themselves.
But having “addiction genes” doesn’t necessarily mean you will become an addict. Genetics can increase one’s risk, but your environment is also a huge factor.
And here’s the good news:
Your environment is something that you can change to suit your needs. If you think drug or alcohol addiction might be hereditary in your family, then take proper precautions in your lifestyle to reduce your chances of becoming addicted.
Make healthy lifestyle choices and tell your family about your concerns. Tell them you want to live a drug-free lifestyle. Abstaining from drugs and alcohol is the best way to reduce your risk of addiction.
If you are interested in learning about other ways that you can reduce the risk of drug and alcohol addiction in your lifestyle choices, reach out to us today.