The Link Between Genetics and Addiction

Addiction: Some people think it’s a disease; some people think it’s a mental health disorder; still others think it’s a choice. Regardless of your stance on addiction, you can’t argue the science. 

Research shows that addiction acts on centers in the brain that are heavily influenced by genetics (and environment, of course). In fact, some researchers believe that at least half of a person’s susceptibility to addiction can be attributed to genetics. 

Dr. Lori Scott of Lori Scott Family Care in Kinston, North Carolina, understands that this strong connection between genetics and addiction can make addiction that much harder to beat. However, it can be overcome — keep reading to learn about genetics and addiction, as well as treatment options for drug abuse. 

How is addiction linked to genetics?

A primer on how addiction works may be helpful here. Addiction works on reward centers in your brain; these reward centers make you feel good because of the release of endorphins, particularly dopamine. It just so happens that the brain’s reward circuits can be influenced by genetics and that addiction can even alter some genes — so it’s a two-way road. 

There’s still a lot to learn about the link between genetics and addiction, particularly as far as the actual biological mechanisms go, but scientists do know that the link is clear. Research points toward epigenetics, or the complex and dynamic relationship between environment and genetics. 

Epigenetics shows that addiction is truly a lot like other diseases. Take cardiovascular disease for example: Heart disease develops from a combination of lifestyle factors and genetic factors. If you have a family history of heart disease, your risk for heart disease is higher. If you eat an unhealthy diet, your risk of great disease is higher. If both apply to you — family history and unhealthy diet — your risk of heart disease skyrockets. 

How much do genetics influence addiction? 

Scholarly estimates range from 40 to 60 percent: That is, up to 60 percent of your disposition to addiction could be due to genetic factors. This fact is critical because it can enlighten people who might have addiction and brush it off as weakness or lack of motivation. If you struggle with addiction and keep telling yourself that it’s just weakness, you may attempt to self-control and never seek the care you need. 

Remember, though, that anyone can develop addiction, even if they aren’t genetically predispositioned to do so.  For example, some people may start out as moderate drinkers and wind up with alcohol dependence a few years down the road. Some people may have no history of opioid addiction and become addicted after one round of prescription pills. 

Do genetics influence treatment for addiction? 

Lots of things can influence an individual’s drug addiction treatment, genetics included. The only way to develop an individualized, comprehensive, successful treatment plan is to consult with an addiction specialist. Dr. Scott can help you carve a path to recovery from opioid addiction and alcohol dependence with one-on-one, medically assisted addiction treatment.

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Scott by calling our Kinston, North Carolina, office at 252-238-7079. You can also book online today.

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