Is Addiction Genetic?

Many of us have family or friends who drink too much alcohol or have become addicted to some illegal substance. We wonder how this happened and was there something we could have done to prevent it. Was this person prone to this addiction, just weak, or was it something else? Is addiction genetic?

Substance Use Disorders

Researchers believe that about half of a person’s vulnerability to addiction can be hereditary. It can make you more prone to developing substance use disorders, or SUD. This includes alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, heroin, and opioids. So basically you have a 50/50 chance of developing an addiction. There must be more to it.


A provider comforting a patient.

On the other hand, genetics plays a part as well. Similar to having a family history of diabetes, about 40 to 60% of addiction comes from genetics. We inherit the hormone dopamine which is the reward center in your brain. It makes us “feel good,” and if we have high levels, it can act as a trigger to addictive behaviors. This does not mean we are going to become addicted to everything that comes our way, it just makes us more predisposed.

What About The Environment?

Look around those family members or friends who are addicted to something. Who do they hang out with? If their friends smoke or do drugs, that makes them more susceptible due to the availability and, of course, peer pressure.

Life experiences play a big role here. Trauma, abuse, or neglect at an early age can play a part. Researchers tell us that stressful situations like a death, a lost job, or other stress can trigger the release of a steroid hormone called glucocorticoids that affects the reward circuitry in the brain. This can initiate a drug addiction or a relapse.

Other Factors


When we talk about addiction, it’s essential to understand that it’s not just about the substance or behavior itself. Several factors can influence the risk of addiction, and some of these factors can increase the likelihood of someone becoming addicted.

Here are some factors that can increase the risk of addiction:

  • Mental health issues like bipolar disorder
  • PTSD
  • Depression

What’s The Answer?

Yes, if parents used drugs in the home, children may develop substance abuse issues later in life.

Yes, if parents or grandparents had an addiction to alcohol, you are more likely to develop those tendencies.

Yes, if you live in an area with illegal substances at the “ready” you may give in to the addiction.

Why are some people more vulnerable than others? No one has all the answers and none of this is written in stone. There is no guarantee that you will develop an addiction, just predispositions.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with an addiction, get help.

Contact Carolina Pain and Weight if you know you have some of these genetic, hereditary, or environmental predilections and get help and guidance.