It is proven that genetics play a role in addiction. However, genetics do not guarantee addiction. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all gene that exclusively determines whether or not someone will develop an addiction. In actuality, many factors go into developing an addiction, and there is no one simple answer as to why.
How Much Do Genetics Affect Addiction?
There is no short answer to this question. The risk of addiction is directly proportional to the degree of relationship between the individual and the addicted relative. For example, studies have shown that if one identical twin struggles with addiction, the other has a high probability of developing an addiction as well. The genetic relationship between identical twins is 100%. Contrarily, the genetic relationship between parents, siblings, and fraternal twins is only 50%. Therefore, the likelihood of developing an addiction is lower if a parent or non-identical sibling is an addict than if your identical twin struggles with addiction.
However, genes are not the only factor in addiction. Addiction development is also highly dependent on environmental factors. One of these primary environmental factors is the availability of the drug. Put simply, availability refers to how present the drug is in a person’s life and how easy it is for that person to obtain it. But availability is also not a directly determinable factor. Culture and economic status affect how easy substances are to access.
How Much Does the Individual Affect Addiction?
Interestingly, evolution has played a large part in our ability to become addicted. Over time, we have evolved to pursue things that we enjoy. That seems obvious, but there is actual physiological science behind this type of pleasure pursuing. Experiences we enjoy release dopamine – the pleasure hormone. Increased dopamine flow leads to the creation of more synapses to receive the dopamine, which promotes even higher dopamine levels, which creates more synapses, and so on. This cyclical feature of dopamine production was originally meant to accompany goals that would help our survival, such as seeking a good mate or nutritious food. Unfortunately, this leaves room for human error. If a person chooses to try a drug like cocaine and enjoys the high that it gives them, they’re likely to keep pursuing that high by continuous use of the drug. The same thing occurs with alcohol.
Addiction can come out of poor coping skills as well. Addicts often use drugs and alcohol as temporary fixes for stress, depression, and other critical issues. Substances won’t cure these ailments but it might provide a momentary distraction. The temporary relief can cause a person to continue to use the drug or alcohol to prolong the distraction, eventually resulting in addiction.
Just because there is a genetic factor to addiction does not mean that your fate is sealed. It is possible to overcome family history of addiction through healthy lifestyle choices and awareness of the disease. However, if you feel that you have developed an addiction, it is important to seek help. Call our addiction specialists at 855-737-7363 for a free and confidential assessment.