Genetics May Play a Role in Addiction, but Genes Don’t Make Addiction Certain

Just because a person’s father or mother was addicted to alcohol doesn’t mean that person or their children will be.

While research focused on the genetic factors involved in addiction points to connections between the ways addiction can travel through families, experts also remind people that this isn’t an affirmation that they’ll have a substance abuse problem, nor anyone else in their family.

A recent article in Addiction Treatment Magazine addresses this issue, stating that there’s still much to be learned about the ways genetics impacts a person’s likelihood or vulnerability related to substance abuse. While some people may have a genetic likelihood of carrying specific traits related to a higher addiction risk, many live a completely addiction free life even when exposed to addiction triggers.

Research continues to explore the ways genetics are related to a person developing an addiction to alcohol or drugs. Although some studies suggest a person’s genetic makeup may include genes that are connected to cravings and abuse for alcohol or drugs, and that they may be able to pass these genes forward to their children, experts note that a person’s environment, attitudes and the presence of any co-occurring illnesses, like depression or anxiety disorders, all have a role to play.

The reality of genetics and addiction can be stated in these terms: While research indicates genetic tendencies that may influence some people’s risk for addiction, these genetic combinations don’t mean addiction is imminent. By identifying and addressing the stressors and triggers ahead of time that may make them more susceptible to addiction, many people lead a life without addiction, despite their genetic wiring.