The Genetics Behind Addiction

by AdamS on July 4, 2012

Over the past few decades, scientists have been working hard to find specific genes that can be linked to drug and alcohol addiction.  Most of their findings suggest that many addicts are actually genetically predisposed to having drug or alcohol related issues because their family has a history of addiction.  It can often be helpful for an addict in rehab to get into a family addiction outreach program and actually go through family counseling.  These programs help the entire family understand their risks and become more supportive of each other.  Check out for more information on family outreach programs.

Studies Show Evidence of Genes Linked to Addiction

Researchers have been able to locate specific genes that are tied to multiple types of addiction.  In a 2009 issue of Nature Reviews Genetics, researchers published data that found that there are specific alleles of genes located on 11 chromosomes that are directly tied to different reactions in drugs and alcohol.  A lot of people are actually genetically more at risk to developing addictions than others because these genes cause their bodies to react differently to substances.

Different Responses Noted

Geneticists have been able to track how certain alleles of different genes cause very different reactions to drugs and alcohol in different individuals.  The geneticists have found that lab mice bred to not have the serotonin receptor gene Htr1b are much more attracted to cocaine and alcohol.  Similarly, lab mice that had higher levels of the neurotransmitter neuropeptide Y were not very interested in alcohol, whereas mice that had low levels of it were very attracted to alcohol.  Most of the findings are only in mice, as it is really difficult to study humans that closely.  However scientists have been able to note a few genes in humans that cause different reactions, such as the A1 allele of the dopamine receptor gene DRD2.  If the A1 allele is present in the human brain, the person is more likely to be addicted to alcohol or cocaine.

Genetics Doesn’t Determine Everything

Even though scientists have discovered some links between genetic makeup and addiction, genetics certainly doesn’t completely determine if someone is going to be a drug addict or not.  A lot of factors go into determining whether someone might develop into a drug or alcohol addict, such as how exposed to the substances the individual is when they are young.  Another huge factor that determines whether someone might become addicted is where they grew up and how much income their family had.   Since genes are only partly responsible for drug addictions, it is very possible to break away from the family history and live without addiction.

Addiction is often at least somewhat linked to heredity, so it’s important for a person to know their family’s addiction history in order to see if they are more susceptible to drug or alcohol addiction themselves.  For families with a long history of drug abuse, it is important to seek family addiction outreach programs when trying to get clean.  Family counseling is very important for families with a history of substance abuse.  Go to for helpful information on family counseling.

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