How Genetics Can Impact Addiction

Written by Robert Castan | Edited By Editorial Team

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Genetic Impact on Addiction

Addiction is often viewed as an individual problem, either due to a personal failing or some other issue related to someone’s life. While individual decisions and actions certainly play a key role in how addictive behavior manifests, there are other important factors to consider when looking at the entire picture of addiction.

One important facet of a person’s addiction can be their family’s history with this condition, as well as how genetics can impact addiction. It’s important to understand the role genetics or family history can have on a person’s addiction in order to gain a complete picture of the problem, as well as how the environment can also impact this situation.

How Genetics Can Impact Addiction

An addiction is often not only the result of life circumstances and how a person was raised, but it can also be the result of a genetic predisposition toward addictive behavior. Although environmental factors can weigh heavily in determining whether a person will become addicted to a particular substance, there is also a genetic impact on addiction. According to a study by the National Institute of Health, a person’s risk of becoming addicted tends to be proportional to the degree of genetic relationship to another addicted individual.

In layman terms, this means that a person who has an addicted parent, uncle, or sibling is much more likely to develop an addiction as a result of this connection. A person’s environment will also contribute to the likelihood of that individual becoming addicted to a particular behavior, but this study is clear evidence that genetic factors can also play a major role in the overall equation.

Addiction In the Family vs Peer Pressure

It’s important to understand that genetics and environmental factors are more influential depending on a person’s age. According to The Virginia Twin Study, when it comes to nicotine, alcohol, and cannabis, a person in early adolescence is much more likely to be influenced to partake in the substance based on environmental factors, such as family and friends using. However, as a person reaches adulthood, genetic factors play a much more critical role in determining whether that person will develop an addiction.

One important thing to note in relation to the debate over nature versus nurture with regards to addiction is the somewhat paradoxical nature of heritability risks. This is due to the fact that a person is ultimately dependent on the availability of a particular substance and their willingness to use it when it comes to whether that person’s addiction is due to their genetic makeup. However, these studies have revealed that genotype plays a significant role in a person’s overall vulnerability to addictive behavior. It’s clear that there is some role that genetics play when it comes to addiction, and it should not be overlooked in the overall picture of dependent behavior.

But it’s also critical that a person doesn’t use genetics as a crutch for not addressing their own struggle with addiction. Although there is a genetic component of addiction and how it affects an individual, there is also a large percentage of dependent behavior that is ultimately attributable to one’s personal decisions in life. The belief that addiction is purely a genetic condition can prevent a person from taking full control over their own destiny and implementing the interventions needed to overcome this condition.

The Role Environment Plays in Addiction

Although we have established that genetics play a crucial part in the overall picture of addiction, it’s certainly important to discuss the role a person’s environment plays within their addiction as well. Whether you are talking about the role of a person’s society in relation to that individual’s addiction or the way in which family life can influence addiction, the environment is a major factor in the overall equation. Environments that encourage substance use or are particularly stressful are likely to cause a person to want to abuse a certain substance more.

Family Life and Addiction

One of the most influential components of a person’s addiction is their home life and how their upbringing was as a child. Family interactions and parenting styles can play a very large role in determining the chances of a person becoming addicted to a substance. If a person grows up in an abusive or dysfunctional environment as a child, it is likely that they will develop unhealthy and negative coping strategies in order to deal with these circumstances. Drugs and alcohol can become a major source of relief for these individuals, which can lead to a serious addiction if one doesn’t intervene early enough in order to remediate the situation.

A person’s social life can also become a major source of their addiction, as friends who use increase the likelihood of that individual also using. Feelings of belonging and being connected to one’s social support groups are major triggers for addiction, and this is especially true during a person’s adolescence. Peer pressure can be a huge reason why a person decides to abuse a substance, even against their own best judgment. The habits and behaviors of the people we spend the most time with are inevitably going to impact our chances of developing addictive behavior.

Addiction in the Media

Another crucial factor to consider when determining why a person develops an addiction is their particular media consumption. If a person is drawn to consume media that promotes drug or alcohol use, they are more likely to end up using a particular substance. Although individuals may believe they are not susceptible to advertising or media influence in that capacity, studies have shown that our media intake can greatly impact our outlook on the world and, as a result, our behaviors. Social media is also a major factor in terms of whether a person will become addicted, as images of people enjoying themselves while on a particular substance can glorify the experience, providing an individual with a distorted view of the specific substance.

Addiction is Not a Death Sentence

If you or someone you love is battling an addiction and are looking for a strategy for tackling this often debilitating dependence, contact SpringBoard Recovery to begin the road to recovery.

We help individuals who are struggling with addiction find a way to turn their downward spiral of alcohol abuse or drug addiction into an upward spiral of recovery. It doesn’t matter whether your addiction is the result of environment or genetics, we are committed to providing sustainable solutions to individuals in need.

Our team of professionals understands that not every addiction is the same and we work with our clients to develop a personalized treatment plan which is uniquely tailored to their specific needs. Contact SpringBoard Recovery today if you are ready to take your first steps toward sobriety.


  • American Psychiatric Association: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction
  • Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323465
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-use-addiction
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/genetics-epigenetics-addiction
  • US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2715956/
  • Scholastic: http://headsup.scholastic.com/students/the-role-of-genes-in-drug-addiction
  • Mental Health America: https://www.mhanational.org/co-dependency
  • Verywell mind: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-peer-pressure-22246

  • Author: Robert Castan

    Robert Castan is a member of the Executive Leadership Team at SpringBoard Recovery. Robert started his professional career as a house manager and has become an industry leader and trusted voice in the treatment world. He brings extensive knowledge of organizational growth, industry-leading outcomes, and comprehensive marketing to SpringBoard Recovery. Robert has been walking his own path of recovery for over 10 years. This path has truly driven his ambition to help make treatment available to others who are struggling with addiction. Robert finds great joy in traveling and keeping physically active, with an emphasis on biking. Robert resides in Arizona with his husband and two four-legged children.   The U.S. Alcohol Crisis, Still Deadlier Than the Opioid Epidemic   Zombies and Other Future Threats to the Health of American Youth Dire Mental Health: A Catalyst for Post-Pandemic Drug Addiction The Benefits of Rehab Center Staff Working Their Own Recovery Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Robert Castan on Successful Addiction Treatment and Entrepreneurship Castan: The road less traveled of addiction & recovery in Scottsdale Opioids & COVID Driving Phoenix’s Rising Fatal Drug Overdoses Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Successful Addiction Treatment Programs & Entrepreneurship

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