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This question of whether or not drug or alcohol addiction is hereditary has puzzled scientists, researchers, and families affected by addiction for years. The simple answer is yes. Recent studies in the field of genetics have begun to shed light on the complexities of addiction, revealing that genetics can play a significant role.
The Concept of Heredity and Addiction
Addiction, often misunderstood as a character flaw or lack of discipline, is a relapsing, chronic disease like heart disease or diabetes, with genetics often playing a critical role. The predisposition to addiction can, like many other traits, be woven into a person’s genetic makeup and inherited from their parents or grandparents. This does not mean every family member will become addicted to drugs or alcohol. It simply means their risk of addiction is higher, especially when combined with other risk factors.
The Role of Genes in Substance Addiction
Like many other diseases, the cause of addiction is a combination of inherited and environmental factors. A person’s genes account for approximately half of their risk for addiction. Personal choices and environmental factors influence the rest. The genes involved in addiction determine how substances affect the body. For instance, these genes can alter how the body reacts to certain substances, the speed at which the body builds tolerance, or the severity of withdrawal symptoms the person experiences. However, the road to addiction is far more complicated than how one gene affects another. It involves multiple genes interacting with one another and with various environmental factors.
Twin Studies: The Invaluable Resource in Genetic Research
In genetic research, twin studies play a critical role. Twins share their entire genetic blueprint. Therefore, differences in addiction rates between twins cannot be due to genetic variation but are likely the result of differing environmental factors. Twin studies in addiction reveal a pattern: addiction rates are frequently higher in identical twins when one of them struggles with addiction. When one twin is addicted but the other is not, the difference is in environmental influences each twin experienced.
Environment and Lifestyle: Key Influences in Addiction
Factors such as stress, traumatic experiences, societal pressures, and early exposure to addictive substances can exacerbate a pre-existing genetic vulnerability and trigger the cycle of addiction. Similarly, the role of family dynamics can also influence the formation of addiction. An unstable family environment can increase the risk of substance abuse. Sadly, people with a family history of addiction may also face a rocky familial landscape that further escalates their risk.
In addition to environmental influence, lifestyle choices can be risk factors. Negative lifestyle choices or lifestyle imbalances such as unstable housing, unemployment, financial difficulties, or relationship breakdowns can increase the risk of substance use as a way of coping. Positive lifestyle choices serve as shields, counteracting some of the genetic and environmental risk factors. Regular physical activity, a balanced diet, strong social networks, and proactive mental health care are choices that can promote resilience and help ward off the onset of addiction.
Help is Available
Addiction to drugs or alcohol is a treatable, chronic brain disease. Anyone can become its victim. If you or someone you care about struggles with a substance addiction, we can help. Located in Mesa, Arizona, the skilled professionals at Canyon Vista Recovery Center will guide you along the road to recovery. Using a combination of evidence-based addiction treatments, psychiatric and medical care, and holistic therapies, our staff will help you regain control of your life. Now is the time to take the first step on the path to recovery. Contact us today.