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Do Genes Play a Role in Becoming an Addict?

Many individuals mistakenly believe that addiction is the product of weak willpower or unstable morals, but do genes play a role in becoming an addict?

Many individuals mistakenly believe addiction is the product of weak willpower or unstable morals. They believe that picking up a drug or a drink is a choice, and continuing to use the drug or drink to excess is also a choice. The truth of the matter, however, is that addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease that no one chooses and has the power to destroy an individual’s quality of life. Yes, picking up a chemical substance for the very first is a choice. For this reason, many men and women who have a drug addiction and alcoholism in their families will choose never to experiment with the way others might.

Why? Because addiction is genetic. It has been scientifically proven repeatedly that addiction is half due to genetic predisposition and a half due to other factors, such as inadequate coping skills, environment, or underlying mental health conditions. Therefore, if you have an addiction in your family, you are twice as likely to develop a substance abuse disorder yourself. In addition, if your parents struggle with addiction, you are more likely to develop an addiction over time.

Knowing Your Family History of Addiction

Because addiction is so taboo and widely stigmatized, most families do not openly discuss it. For example, if your grandfather (mother’s father) struggled with alcoholism, your mother might not even know. She might have vague memories of her father sitting on the couch with a glass full of something every night and reacting violently toward her and her siblings once the glass was empty. But if he sought help before she was old enough to understand or remember things distinctly, she might not even know that alcoholism runs in the family. The good news is that the genetic nature of addiction does not mean that you will inevitably hand the disease down to your children. If you seek help now and learn healthy life and coping skills, you can pass those skills down to your children. Addiction can stop with you.

You will pass on your genes to your children – this is unavoidable. But if you seek the help you need early on in life (or at least as soon as possible), you will be able to provide them with a healthy and functional childhood, and you will be able to instill in them the tools they need to overcome their genetic propensity towards addiction. It is important to understand that those who seek professional addiction treatment are not just doing so to help themselves. They are doing so to help their existing family and to help and protect future generations.

Absolute Awakenings – Comprehensive Recovery

At Absolute Awakenings, we take genetics into careful consideration. Upon admission to our recovery program, each client will undergo an in-depth assessment, focusing on unearthing contributing factors of addiction – including genetics and family history. We offer services and provide resources to the family members of each client so that they can further educate themselves on the disease model of addiction and the family unit can begin to heal as a whole.

Suppose you have been struggling with an addictive disorder. In that case, it is important to note that genetics may play a role even if your family members are recovering or if they struggled with another type of addictive disorder – like a behavioral addiction. Addiction affects the same part of the brain (the reward center). That means that you might struggle with alcoholism or drug addiction while your father struggles with gambling addiction, or your aunt struggles with a shopping addiction. When determining whether or not genetics play a role, consider your extended family and consider both substance abuse and addictive disorders. Of course, you do not need to figure out the reasons behind your addiction before you seek help – that’s our job. To learn more about the role genetics play or Absolute Awakenings and our comprehensive addiction recovery program, give us a call today.


  1. Green KE, Blue JR, Natal SN. An Integrated Model of Nature and Nurture Factors that Contribute to Addiction and Recovery. Subst Use Misuse. 2021;56(8):1095-1107. doi:10.1080/10826084.2021.1901929
  2. Solis JM, Shadur JM, Burns AR, Hussong AM. Understanding the Diverse Needs of Children whose Parents Abuse Substances. Curr Drug Abuse Rev. 2012;5(2):135-147.
  3. Kranzler HR, Soyka M. Diagnosis and Pharmacotherapy of Alcohol Use Disorder: A Review. JAMA. 2018;320(8):815-824. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.11406

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