Can Drug Addiction be Genetic?

We often think of family heirlooms as old pictures of gone but not forgotten relatives. A watch passed down from father to son. A necklace handed along a long line of mothers and daughters. Or maybe it’s just a desire to succeed that’s passed across generations, with each one uplifting the next. But sometimes, it’s just a winning smile. Or a gentle, kind, and patient heart. No matter what physical things we get from our parents, we also get an expansive cocktail of genes from them. Ones that affect every single aspect of our behavior. While our chromosomes are not destiny, the keys to drug addiction and alcohol addiction can be coded right into our nucleic acid. In this blog, we’re going to talk about why and how genes change our behavior. And how we make our destiny by accepting our limitations and getting help when we need it.

What is Drug Addiction?

Drug addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is a complex and chronic brain disorder. Characterized by the compulsive and uncontrollable seeking out, use, and cravings of mind altering substances, despite harmful and persistent consequences. It is considered a medical condition because it affects the brain’s structure and function. Although substance use disorder and addiction often lead to changes in behavior and perception, addiction is not a moral condition. 

Instead, it is a physiological, psychological, and bio-chemical condition. One that can be treated with care, and, if necessary, a full reset with drug rehabilitation. 

Drug addiction can rear its head with dependence on a great variety of substances. This can include illegal and illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. As well as prescription medications and legal substances such as alcohol and nicotine. 

What causes Addiction?

The biggest and most obvious component of addiction is availability. Laudanum was an extremely addictive substance and through the 19th century, it ensnared an untold millions of people in its life destroying clutches. But laudanum is almost impossible to obtain today (most readers probably won’t even know what it is, and they’re better off for it).  It sounds simple to say. But you can’t get addicted to something if you never have the opportunity to experience it. 

Unfortunately, while availability is the biggest pre-condition to addiction, there are many other causes. These include: 

  • Environmental Factors: The environment in which a person grows up and lives greatly influences the chances and risk of addiction. Factors such as exposure to childhood and developmental trauma, stress, peer pressure, and socioeconomic instability can greatly contribute to the development of addictive behaviors. Early exposure to substances and a lack of positive social support can increase vulnerability.
  • Mental Health: Individuals with mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, may be more susceptible to addiction. Some individuals may use substances to self-medicate or alleviate symptoms, which can lead to dependence and addiction.
  • Developmental Stage: The age at which a person starts using substances can greatly increase the risk of long term substance use disorder. Early substance use, especially during adolescence when the brain is still developing, can increase the likelihood of long-term changes in the brain’s structure and function, making individuals more prone to addiction. The same changes 

What are the genetic components of addiction?

There is no gene that corresponds directly to substance use disorder. Unfortunately, there are a wide range of genes that all work in tandem to make one more susceptible to substance use disorder. 

In concert, the interplay of these genes has lead to research that indicates that addiction has a heritable component. Meaning that a person’s genetic makeup influences their susceptibility to developing substance use disorders. Studies on twins, adoptees, and family pedigrees consistently show a higher risk of addiction among individuals with a family history of substance abuse. 

Various genes have been implicated in the risk of addiction. These genes are associated with neurotransmitter systems, receptors, and enzymes involved in the brain’s reward pathway. For example, variations in genes related to dopamine receptors, serotonin transporters, and opioid receptors may influence an individual’s response to drugs and their propensity for addiction.

The brain’s reward pathway, particularly the mesolimbic dopamine system, plays a crucial role in the reinforcing effects of drugs. Genetic variations in genes related to this pathway can affect how individuals experience pleasure, reward, and reinforcement, influencing their likelihood of developing addictive behaviors.

Ready to get help with addiction? Get Drug Rehab at Better Tomorrow

Better Tomorrow Treatment Center’s modern, evidence-based addiction care is designed to foster the personal growth needed to sustain a lifetime of recovery. Find the insight and strength required for the rewarding sober lifestyle your or your loved one deserves. If you or a loved one wants to start their recovery journey, with drug treatment in West Palm Beach, Florida, please contact us at (888) 653-1149, or head over to our website and scroll down to the bottom of the page and fill out our 100% confidential information form and a compassionate member of our team will reach out to you. 

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