Can you be genetically addicted to drugs?

Family studies that include identical twins, fraternal twins, adoptees, and siblings suggest that up to half of a person's risk of becoming addicted to nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs depends on their genetic makeup. Many people, especially those with a family history of addiction, are curious to know what factors influence addiction. Is addiction genetic? It's true that some people may have a genetic predisposition to addiction, also known as substance use disorder (SUD), a medical condition defined by uncontrollable substance use despite negative consequences. However, having a genetic predisposition does not mean that those people are guaranteed to develop an addiction.

Genetics is just one part of the many factors that can affect overall risk. Even if you or a family member are struggling with addiction, hereditary factors are not a life sentence and you can get help to regain control of your life and begin the path of recovery. Yes, there may be a genetic predisposition to substance abuse. In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) states that “at least half of a person's susceptibility to drug or alcohol addiction may be related to genetic factors.

About half of your susceptibility to developing substance use disorder (SUD) may be inherited. Genetics may indicate that you are more likely to use alcohol, tobacco products, or drugs such as cocaine, heroin and opioids. Thinking of addiction as genetics begins with the understanding that addiction is a recurring chronic brain disorder. While a predisposition to addiction may increase risk, there are many modifiable risk factors and ways to overcome the genetics of addiction.

But does that mean that your likelihood of addiction is essentially flipping a coin if you have a family history of SUD? It's a little more complicated than that, says Dr. Akhil Anand, an addiction psychiatrist.

Steve Langehennig
Steve Langehennig

Amateur bacon enthusiast. Amateur coffee geek. Incurable travel advocate. Infuriatingly humble tv guru. Professional food nerd. Subtly charming travel ninja.