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Man praying on beach looking for guidance to recover from addiction

Addiction is a complex disease. How it enters an individual’s life is never definitively known, but there are certain predispositions that can play large roles in an individual’s entanglement with drugs.

To a certain extent, there is a link between addiction and genetics. Addiction can be cyclical and systemic, running in families and passed on from generation to generation. In fact, 40 to 60 percent of an individual’s predisposition to drug addiction is due to their genetics, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

An addiction can also be influenced by environmental factors, personality traits and early drug experimentation.

More times than not, addiction is caused by a combination of factors. If you feel you’re at risk for developing an addiction due to a genetic or environmental inclination, or if you’re a loved one to an individual displaying signs of or already living with an addiction, prevention and recovery both start by educating yourself about the disease.

When you know the possible origins, you will be better equipped to identify early warning signs and manage addictive impulses. Learn more about how addiction and genetics are connected, and discover other factors that increase the risk of addiction.

Is Drug Addiction Genetic?

Scientists at the University of Utah have discovered that both genes and environmental factors impact a person’s susceptibility to addiction and how they experience various drugs.

Scientists have never found a single gene linking addiction to inherited traits. Instead, a number of inherited genetic qualities impact a person’s predisposition to their substance abuse and the likelihood of them becoming an addict.

Addiction factors that have been looked at genetically include:

  • A genetic vulnerability to starting or experimenting with drugs
  • A genetic vulnerability to how much a drug(s) activates an individual’s reward system
  • A genetic vulnerability to continued drug use even when a drug’s negative consequences are well-known
  • A genetic vulnerability to poor decision-making, or how the frontal cortex of the brain functions
  • A genetic vulnerability to mental illness

There may even be genetic factors that make it harder to become addicted.

The most important point from a wide variety of studies on addiction and genetics is that even if an individual is genetically susceptible to forming an addiction, it does not mean the individual will become addicted.

What Increases the Likelihood of Addiction?

Because there is no one factor that will cause a person to become addicted, the possibility of an addiction mainly comes down to an individual’s level of vulnerability and how a drug(s) affects them when consumed.

Above all, the more risk factors for addiction that are present in an individual’s life, the more likely their experimentation with drugs will lead to an addiction.

What Environmental Factors Can Lead to Addiction?

Even if addiction does not run in an individual’s family, addiction can still surface from the following environmental factors:

  • An individual’s neighborhood or community can impact whether an individual is exposed to drugs or is normalized to their existence.
  • Conditions at home can impact whether an individual gravitates towards drugs or not. An individual may be well-provided for but lack effective, protective parental supervision. On the other hand, an individual may grow up in an abusive or neglected home, which can cause them to turn to drugs for escape.
  • Social groups that promote destructive behaviors or exhibit heavy peer pressure toward negative actions can cause an individual to use and abuse drugs.
  • Lack of support at school can cause an individual to fall behind in studies, become unmotivated in their academic success and lean into drug experimentation.

Additional Factors that Can Lead to Addiction:

Early drug use
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the earlier in life an individual starts using drugs, the greater the possibility that he or she will develop an addiction.

This may be due in large part to how drugs affect a vulnerable, developing brain at such a young age. Additionally, early drug use can be the result of early social issues, exposure to physical or sexual abuse, or mental illness.

Method of consumption
How a drug is administered may also be linked to addiction. Some methods of injection allow the drug to reach the brain within seconds. Upon arrival, the drug produces a powerful, euphoric high. How long the high lasts depends on where the drug entered the body. Shorter highs can cause an individual to want to take the drug again to keep the high alive. This high-chasing cycle can lead to an addiction.

Life-Altering Addiction Treatment at Covenant Hills

Even if there is a family history of drug addiction or alcoholism in your family, you are not destined to become an addict. If you feel you’re at a higher risk of forming an addiction (or that there are multiple addiction risk factors in your life) you can take steps to evade addiction altogether. Begin by learning about drug addiction warning signs.

If warning signs are already present (or you or a loved one are abusing or addicted to drugs) the time is now to take action and turn things around.

At Covenant Hills, we believe that you can get back to being the person you know is still inside you. Every addict can get clean. Through our faith-based drug treatment program, your whole person health will be treated – an approach that focuses on restoring the mind, body and soul in a safe, peaceful environment – with the support of expert addiction and medical professionals.

Learn about our gender-specific, faith-based addiction treatment programs, or contact us for a free and confidential assessment.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction. Accessed June 18, 2018.

Genetic Science Learning Center. Genes and Addiction. Accessed June 19, 2018.