Is Drug Addiction Hereditary?

Whether or not the first time to use drugs was a personal choice, sociocultural, biological, and psychological factors can help determine a person’s risk for developing addiction– all influenced by genetics.

In the recent years, scientists have created a disease model for addiction. The model attempted to explain why some people get addicted to drugs and why others don’t. It seeks to help explain the possible causes of drug addiction besides the environment.

Genetics is said to be responsible for at least 50 percent of the risk of developing drug and alcohol addiction. While genes may not be the sole determinant of addiction, it can increase the likelihood of addiction in a person.

The NCADD or the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence reveals that the most reliable factor of drug and alcohol dependence is family history.

Robert Morse, MD in an article for the NCADD revealed the findings of a research that a family history of drug or alcohol addiction is proven to be partly genetic and not just environmental. In fact, millions of Americans are proof that drug and alcohol dependence run in families.

Studies have identified in recent years that numerous genes are associated with addiction.

While genes are actively involved in metabolism, it can also affect how nerve cells signal to one another. Changes in genes can also be passed down from one generation to the next. These factors can increase the likelihood of a person getting addicted.

  • Family dysfunction (e.g. conflicts, aggression)
  • Depression and other mental illnesses in one or both parents
  • One or both parents abuse drugs or is addicted to drugs and or alcohol

Over 28 million Americans are children of alcoholic parents. 11 million of them are under the age 18. Moreover:

  • Children of addicted individuals are 8x more likely to become addicts.
  • A study in 1985 suggests that a strong genetic component for the onset of alcoholism in males is having fathers who are alcoholics.
  • Substance use in parents is strongly correlated with their adolescent children.
  • Children who use drugs have one or both parents who also use drugs.
  • Children of addicts have more physical and mental health issues.
  • Children with permissive parents use drugs more.
  • Children who are abused and neglected by their parents are more likely to use drugs.

If you are aware that your family has a history of drug or alcohol addiction, you can help reduce the risks of anybody in the family developing it. You may:

  • Avoid the use of drugs or drinking when you are still underage. The early onset of drug use can further increase your risk of becoming an addict.
  • Carefully monitor consumption of alcoholic beverages and only use medications that have been prescribed by physicians.
  • Avoid connections with heavy drinkers and or substance users.
  • Address issues on the onset and manage your psychological well-being.
  • Take part in prevention programs in school or at work.

Family history can affect your chances of getting addicted; this is how complex drug and alcohol addiction are.

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