Many people wonder: Does addiction run in the family? In truth, addiction is influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics. It is true that certain individuals may have a genetic predisposition to substance use disorders (SUDs), which are defined as uncontrollable substance use despite negative consequences, but having a genetic predisposition does not mean that those individuals will inevitably become addicted. 

Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to addiction, but genetics are not the only factor that influences your overall risk. Even if you or a family member are addicted, hereditary components are not a lifetime sentence, and you may recover from addiction through professional help. 

Heredity vs. Genetics: 

  • Heredity – Changes in genes and the DNA sequence can pass down different characteristics and traits from parents to children. Heredity is responsible for these alterations. Even though many genes’ expressions are also influenced by the environment, many traits are determined genetically. For instance, the Height and color of eyes are passed down through heredity. The opposite of heredity is non-heredity, which includes things like appearance, personality, and intelligence. 
  • Genetics – Genetics is the study of genes or inheritance. Studies suggest that about half of a person’s risk of developing a drug addiction is based on their genetic makeup. This means that specific genes passed down in your family may put you at a higher risk for drug addiction. Genetics refers to the examination of genes or heredity. Genes are sequences of DNA that are passed from parents and that determine characteristics. Humans have approximately 20,000 genes on their chromosomes. People have 23 pairs of chromosomes and 46 chromosomes. Each parent passes down one of each pair and these genes are passed down from one parent to another at random. Consequently, people share about 50% of their genes with close relatives.

Certain genetic diseases are said to “run in families” because they are passed on by parents. A change in DNA or genes may increase the risk of certain diseases, but the facts are complicated, and DNA can even be “rewired” by interacting with different surroundings. It is a complicated process, and DNA can be altered by a variety of different circumstances. There are a few genetic mutations that cause cystic fibrosis, for example. However, addiction and other health issues are thought to develop as the result of a range of environmental and genetic factors, as well as the interplay between them.

It’s important to realize that even if you have a family history of addiction, you are not guaranteed to develop one. This is because you need to be exposed to the substance repeatedly, as well as be able to access it, in order to become addicted. A person’s propensity to develop an addiction is thought to be influenced by half of their genes.

Other Contributing Factors

Addiction, according to the National Institutes of Health, is a brain disease that results in “functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control.” Furthermore, medical experts at the American Medical Association, Institute of Medicine, and American Psychiatric Association all concur on this point. When examining whether someone is at risk for substance abuse, it is critical to consider all of the potential risk factors.

There are a number of factors that play a role in substance use and addiction, including an individual’s genes and the environment they grow up in. Human beings are composed of a range of biological, social, and cognitive factors, all of which are linked. 

  • Trauma – Experiencing trauma, abuse, neglect, or witnessing domestic violence at an early age can impact brain development and certain brain structures and consequently impact addiction-related behaviors, such as impulse control, decision-making abilities, emotional regulation, and social and emotional skills. 
  • Family Dynamic – Family dynamics that might have affected child development include parental substance use, poor role modeling, poor parental supervision, inadequate emotional warmth, or parental rejection.
  • Environment – Living in an area with high crime rates, experiencing low socioeconomic status, having easy access to substances, beginning using substances at an early age, observing community norms regarding substance abuse, and being unemployed are all associated with an increase in the risk of substance use and addiction. Furthermore, certain brain changes may result from chronic exposure to negative environmental factors, including impulsivity and sensation-seeking, which could increase the risk of addiction. 
  • Learned Behaviors – Due to the fact that the substance can be reinforcing, a person using it again may be more inclined to do so, due to its pleasurable effects. This can lead to changes in the brain’s reward center, which can subsequently produce feelings of extreme distress if the substance isn’t consumed. 
  • Neuroinflammation – Substance use disorders and other mental health issues may one day be treated with new methods based on research on inflammation/neuroinflammation. Although there is some evidence to support this, it is not yet known how inflammatory processes contribute to these problems. 
  • Mental Disorders – Some of the psychiatric issues that can be associated with addiction include schizophrenia, major depression, and personality disorders.

Drug Addiction and Co-occurring Disorders

As stated earlier, It is possible for an individual to become addicted to drugs if he or she has a mental illness. This is referred to as a co-occurring condition. A mental health disorder may also present as an addiction symptom. Because of this, it can be difficult to identify co-occurring disorders. The following are common mental disorders than co-exist with addiction: 

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety   

The best course of action if one is struggling with an addiction is to seek professional assistance as soon as possible. 

Can You Prevent Addiction if it Runs in the Family? 

Even if you are predisposed to a substance abuse problem, you can still avoid or prevent it if you are aware of the symptoms. You can also prevent or avoid addiction by taking certain steps. You should be mindful of your addictive tendencies and avoid your triggers. You can also prevent or avoid addiction by staying up-to-date on your mental health and keeping physically active. You should also stay on top of your mental health and practice self-care. 

Treatment for Drug Addiction 

Regardless of how you got to where you are now, it is crucial to seek specialized treatment if you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction. Many people find their first step toward recovery in acknowledging their substance dependence issue. Finding a treatment program that can restore their health, wellbeing, and joy is the next step.

 It is important to be informed of the numerous treatment alternatives available. For example, some individuals with severe substance addiction problems may go through detox prior to treatment. After treatment, it is critical to keep the lessons learned in rehab by participating in support groups and psychotherapy. 

  • Detox – Detoxification is the process of helping people withdraw from drugs or alcohol without having to suffer through dangerous withdrawals. Medication-assisted detox is sometimes necessary for assisting individuals to recover from moderate to severe addiction. Opiates, amphetamines, and other addictive drugs may necessitate the use of medication-assisted detox to lessen the severity of withdrawal. When addicted to a drug, the body becomes physically dependent on it. After withdrawal, the body is in need of the substance to function normally. A patient is tapered down off the medications until they are no longer physically dependent on addictive substances. 
  • Partial Hospitalization Program -An individual’s addiction can be addressed in a structured partial hospitalization program (PHP). During this program, clients receive treatment in an alcohol- or drug-free facility and receive around-the-clock medical attention and therapeutic support. Individuals battling long-term addiction or suffering from a mental or behavioral disorder may benefit from this type of rehabilitation
  • Intensive Outpatient Program – During an intensive outpatient program (IOP), clients are able to live at home during the recovery process. Clients may continue working and caring for their families while receiving treatment sessions throughout the week. It’s critical to keep in mind that outpatient programs do not isolate patients from the real world, so patients are more likely to encounter triggers that challenge their sobriety. Patients with mild forms of addiction and a committed, disciplined approach to recovery may benefit from outpatient rehabilitation programs. We often include sober living residences with our outpatient programs, which function as a ‘step-down’ after inpatient treatment.

Asheville Recovery Center Can Help 

If you have ever been concerned if addiction runs in the family, or your genetic risk of developing addiction, you may benefit from the many services we offer. At Asheville Recovery Center, we offer a variety of treatment options to help those suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, whether or not it is genetic. 

We use a 12-step program and incorporate holistic rehabilitation methods in our programs. Intensive outpatient, detox referral, partial hospitalization, and aftercare services are offered through the facility. To get help for yourself or a loved one battling drug or alcohol addiction, please call one of our treatment specialists today. You do not have to struggle alone. 

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