The Factors Influencing Addiction: Is Addiction Inherited?

HHRC-Hopeless drug addict going through addiction crisis, portrait of young person with substance dependence

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Numerous factors can cause addiction, and these factors are generally categorized under genetics, environment, and trauma. This article will highlight many factors that can lead to addiction and attempt to answer the question, is addiction inherited?

So, read on here to learn about addiction and its causes and determine if you are susceptible to it.

The Reward Pathway

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), also known as NIH, emphasizes that addiction is a brain illness. It is a sickness that causes “functional alterations to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control.” The American Medical Association, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Psychiatric Association agree that addiction is a brain disease.

Studies of the brain and addiction have identified what is referred to as the reward pathway. The reward pathway begins in the brain’s ventral tegmental area, which controls behavior and memory. Certain substances can trigger the neurons in the brain’s ventral tegmental area to release dopamine, an organic chemical that produces pleasure and satisfaction.

The brain then interprets dopamine release and the subsequent feelings of pleasure as a reward. This process is referred to as the reward pathway. Certain drugs can trigger the reward pathway, and after the process has been experienced several times, the brain begins to establish a connection between the activity (in this case, substance abuse) and the feeling of pleasure, which in turn ensures that the behavior (taking the drug) is repeated.

Factors Influencing Addiction

Many factors influence addiction, and these factors are typically grouped under biological, environmental, or trauma categories.

Biological Factors Influencing Addiction:

  • Genetic and environmental stress factors: According to the National Institute of Health, genes and environmental stresses on gene expression account for 40-to-60% of an individual’s addiction risk.
  • ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia are all genetic, mental health disorders. Untreated or poorly managed mental illness is frequently a significant risk factor for drug misuse and addiction.
  • According to the NIH, while men are more likely to use illegal drugs and have a greater prevalence of dependency, women may be more vulnerable to pursuing and relapse.
  • Many people refer to an addictive personality. However, nobody has identified specific personality traits or a type of personality that influence an individual’s susceptibility to addiction. In short, the medical community says there is no such thing as an “addictive personality.”
  • However, while research has failed to prove the existence of an addictive personality, it has identified various personality features that often coexist with addiction, including impulsive tendencies, nonconformity, and impaired metabolic, physiological, or psychological processes.

Environmental: Factors Influencing Addiction.

  • Early childhood interactions in the home and with family can significantly influence a person’s susceptibility to drug misuse and addiction. Children exposed to dangerous settings and family members who use drugs have more significant behavioral difficulties, which typically lead to experimentation and addiction.
  • Peers and friends can significantly affect the likelihood of an individual engaging in drug abuse and experiencing addiction, particularly with teenagers. The need to fit in, a lack of adequate supervision, weak social skills, and neighborhood poverty can all increase the likelihood of a child engaging in substance abuse and experiencing drug addiction.


  • According to research, children and adolescents who witness traumatic situations are more likely to engage in substance misuse.
  • If not adequately handled, trauma lowers one’s capacity to be resilient and cope with life’s obstacles, particularly in a dysfunctional setting. This raises the risk that a person would self-medicate to cope with challenging events or painful memories.
  • There are numerous forms of trauma. For example, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse; neglect or abandonment; family or social violence; bereavement and other significant loss; and war, terrorism, or refugee displacement are all types of trauma. If a person is predisposed to substance misuse and has experienced severe trauma, it may be challenging to refrain from abusing drugs or alcohol to excess.

Is There a Gene for Addiction?

There is no single gene that causes a person to become addicted. However, researchers have established that DRD2, a dopamine receptor gene, is more common in people suffering from addiction. The increased presence of the DRD2 gene has led researchers to theorize that people become addicted to the pleasurable feelings created by the release of dopamine, which is in turn triggered by drug use.

Mental problems can be inherited, shedding light on the complicated relationship between heredity and addiction. Behavioral genes can also be handed down and impact a propensity for drinking. Depression and schizophrenia are more likely in those with a family history of these disorders. People suffering from mental illnesses are more likely to use drug misuse as a coping mechanism.

Is Addiction Inherited and Are You In Danger of Becoming an Addict?

Scientists have established that there is no hereditary or genetic addiction. But there is such a thing as a family history of addiction. At first glance, this statement may seem contradictory, so let’s examine it in further detail.

Despite extensive research, scientists have been unable to identify any single gene or group of genes that directly cause addiction. As a result, they have concluded that there is no such thing as genetic or inherited addiction. However, despite the lack of an addiction-causing gene, scientists have established that those with a family history of addiction have a greater propensity to become addicted themselves.

For example, those with a family history of addiction, like alcoholism, are at the highest risk of becoming alcoholics. The more family members (by birth) with an alcohol problem you have, the higher your risk for alcohol addiction.

In a recent study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), it was found that “multiple genes play a role in a person’s risk for developing” Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). The NIAAA study concluded that genes account for approximately 50% of an individual’s tendency to develop an alcohol use disorder, with the remaining 50% being attributed to genealogical and environmental factors interacting.

So, the answer to the question “Is addiction inherited?” is no. However, while addiction may not be inherited, the propensity for addiction is.

Haven House Recovery for Drug Addiction Recovery

To treat addiction effectively, biological, environmental, and trauma factors must all be considered. If you’re looking for rehab centers in Nashville, TN, Haven House Recovery is nearby and ready to help you!

We at Haven House Recovery understand the complexities of drug and alcohol use issues. That is why we have a team of professionals specializing in these problems. Furthermore, our programs offer a 12-step faith-based approach for people with addiction and mental health problems.

If you are suffering from addiction, our staff will examine your situation and provide a personalized treatment plan to meet your specific requirements. Remember that your genes are simply one factor. Contact Haven House Recovery Center and we will help you achieve long term sobriety and live a more fulfilling life.