The Role of Genetics in Substance Abuse and Addiction

Your genes dictate the color of your hair and eyes, and even your height, but do they also play a role in whether you develop

If you’re caught in the grips of a substance use disorder, which is characterized by addiction and dependence, you’ve likely spent some time wondering how you got to this point. In many cases, much of the answer lies in your family tree, or more specifically your genes.

At LifeSync Malibu, under the experienced and compassionate care of board-certified addiction medicine specialist Dr. Geoffrey Booth, our team understands the many factors that can contribute toward a substance use disorder. While the environment certainly plays a role, as does your mental health, the role of your genes is also considerable.

Here’s a look at what researchers have found when it comes to genetics and substance use and addiction.

In the genes

For a long time, the role of genetics in substance abuse and addiction has been one of speculation and conclusions drawn from anecdotal information, which is not to say that these conclusions were unfounded. In fact, anyone who has worked in addiction has long understood that substance use disorders often run in families and that the link does exist.

In recent decades, however, medical researchers have made great inroads in their ability to map genes, which is allowing us a better understanding of the role that they play in whether you have a higher risk of developing an addiction.

While studies to date haven’t isolated a single gene responsible for this propensity, there are certain genetic markers that appear to contribute toward the development of a substance use disorder. For example, when it comes to alcoholism, genes can control how you metabolize ethanol. Another interesting finding is the influence that your stress response has in whether you develop an addiction, and this response is genetic.

By the numbers

To give you a better idea of what researchers have found, here’s a look at a few of the numbers from a couple of studies on the role of genetics in a substance use disorder.

One of the ways researchers have attempted to quantify the role that genetics play in substance use is by studying twins. For example, in one study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, 861 sets of identical twins and 653 sets of fraternal twins were examined, and researchers found that if an identical twin had a substance use disorder, the other had a high probability of developing one as well, which wasn’t the case with fraternal twins.

Another study involving almost 1,000 people in New Zealand found that having a parent with an alcohol use disorder greatly increased the odds that the child will develop the same.

While we can continue to cite more studies, the bottom line is that many researchers have concluded that the inheritability of a substance use disorder is between 40-70% and the inheritability of an alcohol use disorder hovers around 50%. 

There is hope

However your substance use disorder came about, our message to you is that there is hope, genetics or no. We understand the steps you need to take to reclaim your life, starting with detox. We conduct your detox in a spa-like setting where you will have 24-hour oversight to ensure your comfort and safety.

Once we release you from the physical prison that a substance use disorder can create, we ensure that you have the help and tools you need to move forward.

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse and addiction, please contact us so we can help reconnect your life.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Learning to Recognize Your Alcohol Triggers

Recovery, especially early recovery, can be a veritable minefield for people who are trying to overcome an alcohol use disorder. Here’s a look at how recognizing your triggers, and avoiding them, will serve you well.

The Residential Treatment Advantage

It stands to reason that a residential drug and alcohol treatment home is better than an outpatient drug rehab clinic. But, have you ever stopped to ask yourself why?

Genetic Testing for Mental Health Medicines

In the last couple of blog posts, we've discussed genetic DNA testing for the predisposition of mental health disorders, diseases, cancer, and the importance of genetic testing for dual diagnosis.