Drugs and the Genetic Code Infographic

Michelle Rosenker

October 31, 2019

For decades, addiction has not been viewed for the disease it is, but instead as a poor choice made by someone with questionable character. Countless people who have experienced addiction firsthand have suffered from the stigma of it being a choice. That stigma still exists despite addiction being scientifically proven as a disease. 

Many of the millions of people struggling with addiction developed it because of one or more environmental factors. Some common environmental factors include natural disaster, combat, neglect, sexual or physical abuse, and the sudden loss of a loved one. When an individual is unable to cope with environmental factors, there is potential for him/her to turn to the use of drugs or alcohol to cope. The recurrent use of mind-altering substances begins to change the structure and function of the brain, causing a person to keep abusing drugs or alcohol despite the consequences of their use. 

While environmental factors play a major role in the development of countless addictions, so do genetics. Genetics (which are the inherited characteristics obtained from one’s bloodline) can predispose a person to the disease of addiction. In other words, people can be born with the “genetic code” for addiction. All it takes is some experimentation and/or an environmental problem to trigger the onset of addiction. 

drugs and the genetic code infographic

The Genetics of Addiction

Many of our genetics are deeply rooted in our families. For example, commonly shared genetics include height, blood type, hair color, and longevity. These traits are what define us as relatives. While there are several positive genetics that are passed down from one person to the next, there are also negative ones that can affect the course of our lives. For some people, the genetics that complicate their lives, commonly mental illness, are tied to the disease of addiction. Consider the following statistics:

  • Genetics contribute to 40-60% of the risk of addiction
  • Out of the 30,000 different types of genes in our bodies, 89 of them are associated with substance abuse and dependence
  • Of those 89 genes, 21 of them are connected to regulating cell adhesion processes responsible for creating links in the brain. Improper cell adhesion causes addiction to develop in the brain and creates triggers that cause a person to crave drugs or alcohol. 

Genetics responsible for behavioral traits also add to a person’s genetic predisposition for addiction. For example, impulsivity is tied to one’s genetic makeup. Someone who comes from a family that is extremely impulsive is likely to also share in that same behavior either due to genetics or a learned behavior. Novelty-seeking behavior, such as avoiding frustration, quick decision-making, and the desire to experiment in an effort to be stimulated, also increases one’s likelihood of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol.

When addiction is genetic, it is common for people to live with relatives (such as parents or siblings) who are active in their addiction. In this type of setting, a person is not only genetically predisposed to addiction, but his or her environment serves as a major risk factor for turning to the abuse of drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. When genetics and learned behaviors combine, it becomes much more likely that a person will struggle with the disease of addiction. 

Preventing Addiction in Families

There is no way to determine the exact genes that we inherit from our parents, their parents, and so on. In most cases, the best indicator of a predisposition to addiction is to consider the behaviors of those who came before us. If one of your parents is addicted to drugs or alcohol, your risk for also struggling with addiction is much higher than someone who has a parent that is not addicted to drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, many people who are at risk for addiction do not do anything about it until they start to experience it. It does not have to be this way. If you come from a family that struggles with substance use disorders, there are several things you can do to break the cycle. Consider the following:

  • Educate yourself about the disease of addiction. Specifically, spend time learning about risk factors and warning signs of substance abuse.
  • See a therapist, even if you do not think you need one. Being able to work with a therapist can help you develop the coping skills you need in order to get through life without turning to drugs or alcohol. 
  • Because you know that addiction runs in your family, abstain from drugs and alcohol. Do not put yourself in situations where you are tempted to experiment or drink/use irresponsibly. In this instance, the risk is greater than the reward. 
  • Teach your children about addiction. Do not turn it into a taboo topic. The more information they have about how addiction develops and why, the better equipped they are to make healthy decisions regarding use as they grow into adults. 

Addiction can be cyclical in families, but it does not have to be. It is easier to prevent addiction than it is to treat it. 

Do You Need Professional Help? Call JourneyPure Melbourne Right Now.

Being addicted to drugs or alcohol is no way to live. Without getting the help that you need, your addiction can cause you to experience several consequences that alter the course of your life indefinitely. And, if you continue to use, you put yourself at risk for overdose or other deadly outcome related to being under the influence.

At JourneyPure Melbourne, we know how difficult it can be to both live with an addiction and recover from one. We understand that in order to get into recovery, it takes a great deal of effort. At JourneyPure Melbourne, we will not only provide you with a treatment plan that meets your needs but also support you on your journey towards recovery.

Do not wait any longer to reach out for the help that you need in order to get your life back. Call JourneyPure Melbourne right now to get started on your recovery.