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Is Addiction Hereditary?

Whether addiction is hereditary has been a commonly asked question over the years. There’s been studies on the subject, there’s been statistics released, and still the question remains. Is addiction hereditary? The short answer is yes, addiction has been linked to genetics. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that addiction was even recognized as a disease. Now, the thought process surrounding addiction is still ever changing. Understanding the link between genetics and addiction is vital for those who have suffered with substance abuse and for those who have loved ones who have.

Understanding Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Addiction is a monster that can be difficult to beat. In many cases, people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with situational feelings, and end up not being able to stop drinking and drugging. This is because the brain and body become dependent on the substances. When this happens, it can be hard to break that cycle. Oftentimes people need to seek professional help in order to end drug addiction and alcohol addiction. Other times, they continue to use drugs and alcohol and end up with some severe physical and emotional consequences. No matter the situation, drug and alcohol addiction is a disease and the question can be asked, is addiction hereditary?

Is Addiction Hereditary?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, there is a link between genes and DNA and your susceptibility to drug and alcohol addiction. They say that about half of it can be hereditary. While there is a link to genetics, addiction is more complicated than that. Just because there is a genetic predisposition to developing a substance abuse problem, does not mean it is a definite thing that’s going to happen in your life. It just means that you are more prone to developing a substance abuse problem. On the flip side, just because you do not have a predisposition does not mean you won’t. Addiction does not discriminate, and anyone can be affected.

To see how addiction can be viewed as hereditary, there are studies that show differences in dopamine in the brain. Higher levels of dopamine can cause poor impulse control, and lower inhibitions toward substance use. Dopamine is viewed as the reward center in the brain, responsible for feeling pleasure. So, when it gets affected by drug and alcohol use, it can make it easier to continue to turn to drugs and alcohol for a sense of pleasure.

Other Factors Contributing to Addiction

Even though it is said that addiction is hereditary, there are other factors that can be attributed to addiction. As previously stated, anyone can be affected by addiction. It is a disease of the mind and the body. There is a physical dependence, and a mental craving associated with drug and alcohol addiction. Knowing other factors, other than addiction being hereditary can help to avoid or identify substance abuse problems.


Trauma can be a main factor for substance abuse problems. Traumatic events happening in life, whether in early childhood, adolescence or adulthood, can harm a person psychologically. It can cause flashbacks and anxiety so severe that, seemingly, the only way to feel any relief is to self medicate with drugs and alcohol. This can lead to dangerous consequences. Being that studies show addiction is hereditary, those with a predisposition to substance abuse have a higher risk of turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with traumas.


The link between drug and alcohol abuse and environment can easily be seen. Oftentimes, children who grow up in homes where there is substance abuse, physical or emotional abuse, or neglect are often seen to begin using drugs and alcohol as a way of coping with their feelings surrounding their upbringing. Whether addiction is hereditary or not can also play a role in the environment affecting someone’s use of drugs and alcohol to cope.

How You Can Help

Regardless of the situation, there is help. Drugs and alcohol can drastically change a person’s behavior and personality. If you have suffered from addiction, the best thing you can do is be open with your family about it. It can help them to be more aware of their possible predisposition to drug and alcohol abuse. If cancer or diabetes ran in your family, you would do everything you can to warn the others in your family of the risks of developing these diseases, right? Think of it that way. Warning them could help to keep them healthy.

Finding Help for Addiction in Lexington, KY

Drug and alcohol addiction is a beast and affects all aspects of the addict or alcoholic’s life. It can take the most functional person and turn them into a monster. If you or a loved one are struggling with drugs or alcohol, there is help for you out there. We at Lexington Addiction Center can help guide you through the early stages of getting clean and sober, and help you to learn to live a life free from drug and alcohol addiction. Contact us today and let our team help you begin this process.