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Can Addictions Be Inherited?

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 2 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Alcoholism Alcohol Drugs Addictions

Addictions occur for a range of different reasons, some fairly common to many addicts whilst others are not but is it possible for a person to develop an addiction because their parent was an addict or does it happen for another reason?

The Role Of Genetics In Addiction

Most experts agree that genetics do play a role in addiction but this factor does not necessarily mean that family members have a gene that says they will definitely become an addict of something but that these people all carry significant genetics that suggest they are more susceptible to addiction and once they start using a substance, will find it increasingly difficult to cease using it.

This evidence shows that family members might all have a similar tendency to become addictive but not that they have a ‘faulty’ gene that implies they are genetically addicts. The public often misconstrue this fact as such when in fact the lack of understanding about this concept can lead to people assuming all members of a family have addiction in them and that they are destined to one day develop alcohol dependence, succumb to substance misuse or perhaps even use harder drugs such as cocaine, crack or heroine.

The role of genetics in addiction is not dependent on a single gene but is comprised of many different genes interacting and reacting with each other which might make the person more vulnerable to the problem. It is far more likely that any role genetics might have in addiction is far more likely to be superseded by the other factors that are known to contribute to the incidence and likelihood of addiction developing in the first place.

Other Possible Reasons

It may not necessarily be that a person becomes addicted to something because of an inherited problem but because they learn that the behaviour is acceptable and a normal part of life. For example if a child sees their parents smoking several times a day everyday from a very early age, the chances of them becoming a smoker are a lot higher than in those whose parents have never smoked.

It may be that cigarettes and tobacco do not carry the same fears and taboo for these children as they see them, smell them, breathe them in and have their presence in their lives more often that not.Environmental factors are also contributory in addiction occurrence and again this can seem to follow down the generations of some families but this is often due to circumstance rather than genetics profile.

Alcoholism is known to be very prevalent in poorer societies and frequently each generation will be born into, grow up in and start their own family in similar surroundings which continues this cycle of events.

What Can Be Learned From This?

As addiction has become a big part of modern society, a lot of money, time and effort has been spent researching the whole topic and the findings have allowed experts to develop screening tools, therapies and drugs that can help treat the physical and mental effects of addictions, but also just as importantly can be used in helping lessen the biological causes of addiction hopefully preventing the person from deteriorating and possibly risk their life.

Common addictions include drug use, alcoholism and substance misuse to name a few and evidence now exists to prove that genetics does indeed play a role in its occurrence but in a less obvious way than that which is initially considered from the term ‘genetics’.

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