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Is Addiction Hereditary?

Updated on July 26, 2018
Rfordin profile image

Rebecca has been a freelancer online for 10+ years. She enjoys writing, editing and being a stay-at-home mom to two beautiful little girls.

What is Addiction?

According to Dictionary. com addiction is the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice. A substance or act that is psychologically or physically habit-forming; to such an extent that its cessation causes trauma.

Simply stated, addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests any substance deemed "addictive" or engages in an activity that causes the reward center of the brain to activate.

Addiction Comes In Many Forms

  • Substance Abuse
  • Gambling
  • Food
  • Exercising
  • Sex
  • Working
  • Video gaming/Internet
  • Shopping

Can I Become Addicted the First Time I Try Something?

Not necessarily, a lot of factors come into play before someone becomes addicted to a substance or activity. More often than not repetitive use is what leads to the behaviors becoming enslaving or addicting. However, someone with a strong family history of addiction is much more likely to become addicted after their first use than someone with no family history of addictive behaviors.

The Cycle Of Addiciton

The cycle of addiction often begins very innocently. At a party, or with one's peers, out of curiosity, etc. Whatever substance or activity a potential addict engages he or she will usually enjoy the feelings associated with it. This new feeling of euphoria is caused by the brains reward system being flooded with chemicals - "feel good chemicals." A temporary feeling of euphoria that can only be replicated by partaking in the activity or substance again.

This is a crucial part of addiction and its development. If a person can recognize what is happening to their body, realize the feelings taking place are potentially harmful, temporary, and the makings of addiction; then a person may be able to stop a serious addiction from developing. However, falling into the trap of enjoying the brains overflow of reward chemicals and engaging in the behavior again is a recipe for addiction disaster.

Think about your favorite food -

If you had a choice to eat your favorite food five days a week, would you? Why or why not?

If you answered the above question, you have a pretty good insight into your brain, and it's addictive tendencies. Did you say "YES - I love chocolate cake I'd eat it every, single, day!" Or did you say "I enjoy chocolate cake but my waistline and health wouldn't?"

Just like with chocolate cake, an addict becomes obsessed with a substance or activity and continues to engage in it. As the person continues to engage in these behaviors, their body starts to recognize the substance, and the "good" feelings associated with it; their brain begins to enjoy the feelings - the activity or substance no longer is a want - but more of a need. Thus causing the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of true addiction.

Is Repetitive Use Responsible for Addiction ?

Continued abuse perpetuates the cycle. A person's judgment, impulse control, behaviors, and thoughts are all eventually affected. The addict's life is taken over by when their next fix will take place. How will it take place? Where will it take place? Their life, if not already, has compleltely changed. They have re-programmed their brains reward system - things that used to make them happy are no longer a thought. He or she focuses on only the intense need to feed their habit - their brain has told them it is necessary for survival.

Whether it be substance abuse, alcohol abuse, or other addictive behaviors its repetition that causes the "high" feelings associated with all addictions.

From Genes to Addiction: How Addiction Risk Unfolds Over Ones Lifespan

Is Addiction Hereditary?

Addiction being categorized as a disease makes it easy to say that just like diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer, human beings are genetically prone to addiction. Science has taken major steps towards proving that addiction and addictive personalities do run in families. Which would suggest that addiction is in fact hereditary.

Addictive Personalites and Risk Factors for Addiction

A person who exhibits addictive personality traits are more likely to become addicted to behaviors or drug use.

Some of these personality traits include:

  • A family history of addiction
  • Mental illness
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Impressionable

Speak With Your Dr. About Addiction Counseling And Treatment

Addiction is a treatable disease. Start by speaking with your Dr. and loved ones to create a personalized and solid plan to recovery.

© 2012 Rfordin


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I appreciate your kind and genoures advice a lot!. I have been trying it hardly and did not get those amazing results!. It is nice to see that you got my comment in a good way!God bless you!VA:F [1.9.10_1130]please wait VA:F [1.9.10_1130](from 0 votes)

    • abbykorinnelee profile image

      Abigayle Korinne 

      7 years ago from Plymouth WI

      Genetics are an important factor when considering Addiction. There are genes that make you more or less vulnerable to an addiction and can be hereditary. There is significant evidence that supports the claim. Once you start if you have the "more addictive" gene than its harder for you to stop than others; and you may notice the trend among family members.

      However, it doesn't "doom" you to a life of addiction. Just as nature (or genetics) plays a role so does your environment..the classic nature vs nurture debate:)

      Being susceptible to addiction actually isn't one gene either, its the interactions of many different genes.

      "The A1 allele of the dopamine receptor gene DRD2 is more common in people addicted to alcohol or cocaine Increased expression of the Mpdz gene results in mice experiencing less severe withdrawal symptoms from sedative-hypnotic drugs such as barbiturates Non-smokers are more likely than smokers to carry a protective gene, CYP2A6, which causes them to feel more nausea and dizziness from smoking Alcoholism is rare in people with two copies of the ALDH*2 gene variation"

      This is the information I got in a lecture in an abnormal psych class

    • Natashalh profile image


      7 years ago from Hawaii

      When I was a kid, I remember one of my parents explaining that several other family members were/had been alcoholics and how it was important to remember that I might be more prone to alcoholism, but I could always choose (like my parents) to deny that heritage. Maybe. Funny thing to say to a kindergartner, but I've always remembered that conversation.

    • Rfordin profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Florida

      Hi Tammy,

      I tend to think that we are all addicted to something in one way or another. I just like to think that the majority of us use those addictive tendencies for "good" rather than harmful things. I know I'm addicted to Hubpages, and a bunch of other things that are not harmful (but have the potential to be).

      Anyway thanks for stopping by and seeing me!


    • tammyswallow profile image


      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Very interesting. I have always wondered if this was possible. I have always been cautious and not addicted to anything just in case. Great hub~!

    • Rfordin profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Florida

      Your idea of alcohol and drinking socially is spot on. I think that addiction in and of itself is hereditary...almost like an "addictive gene" or addictive personality. In that sense family members could all be addcited to something wether it be food, alcohol, drugs, etc. Of course it goes without saying being addicted to anything has it's faults the old adage "to much of a good thing" comes to mind. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools Hogg 

      7 years ago from North-East UK

      Very interesting read. I know people who don't know when to stop drinking and that is a pretty ugly thing at the end of the night. I have been drunk a few times but am not much of a drinker, however, I do sometimes think I am addicted to certain foods - which can be just as bad. As for it being hereditary, it is strange that you find alcoholism runs in families; I think maybe it's more prevalent because it is something we can all do socially and it is completely acceptable.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      7 years ago from Florida

      Very interesting Hub about addiction. I've often wondered about this because I have seen so many families where it does seem to be true, or at least the family members have the tendency to become addicts in some way.

      Voted this UP, etc.

    • RedElf profile image


      7 years ago from Canada

      Interesting article - and thought-provoking comments!

    • profile image 

      7 years ago

      enjoyed reading this thanks Rfordin- a great reminder - I suppose everyone has some form of addiction - even shopping can be addictive - how we deal with the daily grind and make life more pleasurable can sometimes end up making it more destructive!

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      7 years ago

      Very good article, I have seen people who have come from homes where they was an addiction of some sort, and go out of their way to ensure that their family is caught up with an addiction and have to suffer in the same way. All depends on the person and their experience. Voted up and interesting. Thank you.

    • Rfordin profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Florida

      Hi Billy,

      As I mentioned to Joe I don't drink often therefore when I do drink it's to get DRUNK (which usually winds up very bad) so I deifnitly can see I have addictive tendencies.....

      Another interesitng thing to point out although only semi-relevant is that I was adopted by my family at birth and neither of my adoptive parents are addicts. However I have the potential to be an addict in many areas of my life..... I did get to meet my biological family (all 6 of them) and they all seem to be addicts in some nature. So as a case study personally I would fall under the argument that addiction IS hereditary.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • teacherjoe52 profile image


      7 years ago

      You're welcome and I agree with what you stated.

      God bless.

    • Rfordin profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Florida

      Thanks' for stopping by and readin teacher (Im gonna take a guess that your name is Joe?).

      I tend to be a social drinker in the aspect of I drink occasionally. However when I do drink I tend to get very drunk - not just a "few" drinks with friends I drink to get plastered. So I can kinda understand your "one drink - game over" comment.

      I totally agree about men and woman coming from abused families and growing up to be great parents. Often times their "drive" is they way they were raised and not wanting to do the same to their children.

      On the flip side often times children who are absued growing up can be absuers later on. I guess it's all in the way we as individuals take our learning experiences. We either learn from them an change our ways to refelct those lessons or we continue the patterns we learned as a child.

      Thanks again "Joe" for stopping by!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great job of looking at the problem. For me, it makes no difference how addiction is classified; I have proven time and time again that I cannot have alcohol.

    • teacherjoe52 profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting thing is it is in the genes.

      There are a lot of alcoholics in my family.

      My brother can have a social drink. I cannot. One drink and it;s game over.

      Our social exposure is also limited.

      I have seen men and women that have come from abused families that are great parents.

      Good article.


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