Is Addiction Genetic? Hereditary Impact Explained


Are you worried addiction will be passed onto you based on your family history? You’re not alone. Many eople struggling with addiction or people who fear they’ll turn to substance abuse at some point in life face these same questions.

The truth is that addiction can be genetic, but to an extent. Genetics also isn’t the only cause of addiction. Addiction is complex, but there are ways to know whether or not you’re at higher risk of becoming an addict.

Is Addiction Genetic?

Addiction can be genetic, but our genes can only increase the likelihood of becoming an addict. In the same way genes can pass down higher chances of diseases, they can also pass down a higher likelihood or a lower likelihood of addiction.

Genes can impact how our body reacts to dangerous and addictive substances and determine how long it takes to break them down. Receptors the genes create, and the number of receptors, in the brain are both factors in developing an addiction.

Discovering if you’re at high-risk can go a long way in which you know not to try anything highly addictive.

How Much of Addiction Is Genetic?

Studies show through familial research that a person’s chance of becoming addicted is around fifty percent. Addiction is significantly more complex than a handful of other diseases.

It’s not straightforward, but there’s clear evidence that genetics play a significant role.

Is Addiction Caused by Our Genes or Our Environment?

Addiction can be hereditary, but it can also be environmental. On top of the genes we’re born with, factors like where we grow up, the people around us, and our lifestyles can lead us down the dangerous path of addiction.

How Do Genetics Influence Addiction?

Genetics has an influence on addiction in multiple ways. It can increase or decrease the likelihood of someone developing an addiction.

Our genes can also impact the ability a person has to quit. There’s even a possibility certain genes can determine the best way to conquer the addiction.

Specifically, the D2 dopamine receptor, which, depending on how many a person has, can be an indicator of whether someone has a high chance of becoming an addict. A large amount of D2 receptors increase the chances of an alcohol, cocaine, or heroin addiction.

Where Does Addiction Come From?

Addiction can derive from many things in our life, but it happens because of the way these things process within the brain and ultimately change it.

The things we can grow addicted to bring us great pleasure for however long they last, so despite the negative impacts it can have on someone, the brain overflows with dopamine and wants more of it.

This is why genetics can have an impact because if our brain has more receptors, it can become addicted easily and quickly.

What Causes You To Be Addicted?

Some many causes and factors can lead to addiction. The four categories are biological, socioeconomic, environmental, and trauma. It’s nature and nurture; the way we are born and the things we experience in life can lead to addiction.


As we’ve stated, addiction can be caused by a biological factor. Being born with a greater risk of addiction doesn’t automatically mean you’ll develop one, but experimenting with an addictive substance increases your chance of growing an addiction to it.

People with more dopamine receptors in their brains are at higher risk, but this doesn’t mean people with fewer receptors can’t become an addict.


Socioeconomic status can lead to a life of addiction with multiple factors. People with low and high economic statuses can be at a higher risk of becoming addicts for different reasons.

Low economic status can lead to addiction and simultaneously keep the individual in poverty because they spend all the money they do have on their addictive substance.

People with more financial resources have the means to spend as much money as they want on drugs or alcohol, putting them at high risk as well.


It’s no surprise that growing up in an area where drugs and alcohol are everywhere puts those who live there at high risk for addiction. In the same way, growing up in a household with addicts present or witnessing the abuse of drugs or alcohol firsthand can lead to addiction later in life.

These addictive substances are normalized, so they are not considered dangerous. There is a mentality, no matter where you grew up, that if you’ve seen someone do it, you’ll be fine doing it too.


Trauma is a big cause of addiction. Whether it’s through grief, witnessing a horrific event, or any other stage of trauma, the ability to cope is different per person. Some people deal with traumatic events in healthy ways, and others turn to substance abuse to escape their reality.

Addiction isn’t always a catalyst immediately after experiencing trauma. Past trauma from our childhoods can haunt us for life and lead to an addiction further down the road.

How To Tell if You Are Having Issues With Addiction

There are several indicators that your experimental or regular usage of a substance is becoming a deeper issue.

Increased Usage

Upping your usage or the need to use a substance more frequently than before are two major signs.

There are phases to addiction, and even when you aren’t fully addicted, you’re never fully safe from becoming an addict as long as you’re using.

Lying About Your Usage

Another sign that you’re struggling with addiction is if you’re feeling an increase in anxiety, guilt, or shame. If you aren’t being honest to yourself or others about the number of times you use or drink, it’s not a good sign.

Money Issues

How much you spend on the substance, even if you can afford it, is a factor in determining whether you may be dealing with addiction issues. Similarly, you may be facing occupational consequences.

For instance, individuals with a gambling addiction may continue spending more money on betting despite mounting debts and financial problems. Along the same lines, people with alcohol or drug addictions may prioritize their substance use over their jobs or other responsibilities, leading to job loss or decreased work performance.

Being Unable To Stop Using

Being self-aware is a huge first step, but if you realize you’re using too much, attempt to cut back or stop, and can’t, you’ve likely grown an addiction.

Addiction is a disease, so if you conclude you won’t be able to stop using on your own, seek help. Waiting and using can worsen your addiction, make you feel more anxiety and shame, and ultimately make it harder to ask for help.


If you find you’re able to stop using but experience intense symptoms of headaches, irritation, bad sleeping habits, or worsened anxiety and depression, you’re likely an addict going through withdrawal.

Experiencing withdrawal is the last step in defeating an addiction, but it’s a tough process. If you suspect you’re going through withdrawal, seek help. You’ve already begun the process, and the last thing you’d want is to slip and use it again.

Wrapping Up

Addiction is a disease that people can’t control once they’re in too deep. One-time use can spiral for those with addictive personalities and high-risk genetics, but you are not alone. It’s never too late to seek help.

Comment below if you have any further questions regarding genetics and how they can lead to addiction.


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