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If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, understanding the causes can be incredibly important. Many people wonder: is addiction genetic? Understanding drug addiction genetics or other underlying causes can help people make better choices, learn their genetic makeup, and get help when they need it.


What Causes Addiction?

Many things can cause addiction.

Childhood Problems

Trauma, neglect, violence, abuse, witnessing domestic violence, or extreme poverty early in life can negatively impact how your brain develops. Such changes can physically stunt growth in specific brain regions, reducing the level of impulse control, emotional regulation, or decision-making abilities an individual has when they grow up. Similarly, if a parent or family member abuses drugs, rejects their children, or doesn’t provide enough supervision, these family factors can increase the risk of addiction in children when they get older.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors have been studied for a long time, and science indicates that many environmental factors can contribute to the risk of substance abuse. These changes increase risk behaviors, impulsivity, and sensation-seeking, which leads to a higher risk of addiction. Some examples include living in regions with high crime, growing up in poverty, exposure to addictive substances at an early age, living in an environment where substance abuse is considered normal, facing chronic unemployment, or living in an area with easy access to addictive substances.

Neurological Changes

Many things can contribute to neurological changes throughout someone’s life, which place them at a higher risk of addiction. If someone uses drugs, it releases positive chemicals from the brain like dopamine. This process is part of the natural reward system, intended to be released when someone engages in a good activity, like exercise. But, when it is released during drug use, those positive chemicals reinforce the activity despite how harmful it is. The more someone uses drugs, the more likely it is to change the way their brain functions. With time those alterations to the brain leave an individual at a higher risk for future addiction.


But is addiction genetic? Yes, genetic addiction is one of the potential contributing factors to someone’s risk of substance abuse and addiction. However, drug addiction genetics is a field that is relatively new compared to the scientific research in environmental factors and factors like trauma.


Can Addiction Be Genetic?

According to a recent Harvard Medical School publication, drug addiction genetics is a significant scientific concern. Some research has found that a small infectious agent integrates with a single gene responsible for regulating dopamine activity. People who struggle with addiction have rates of this infectious agent integration higher than people without substance abuse disorders.


Is There an Addictive Gene?

Still, people ask, is addiction genetic? Is there one addictive gene responsible for increased levels like opioid addiction or alcoholism in the body? 

In fact, science shows it’s not just one addictive gene but a handful.

  • HIST1H2BD: Linked to cocaine dependence and currently being studied as a single genetic identifier for a predisposition to cocaine abuse.
  • ALDH1: Linked to alcohol metabolization, genetic differences that lead to higher levels of this gene increase have uncomfortable symptoms during alcohol consumption.
  • ALDH2: Linked to alcohol metabolization, and lower levels of this usually exist in tandem with higher levels of ALDH1 to either protect against alcoholism or exacerbate the risk of alcoholism
  • GABRA2: Linked to alcoholism, strongly associated with early-onset alcoholism.
  • CHRM2L: Linked to alcoholism and the addictive gene above, this has been strongly linked to alcohol use disorder.
  • MAOA: Linked to stress resilience, changing the impact of stress responses on the body and brain, which can extend to genetic addiction.
  • SLC6A4: Linked to stress resilience, impacting how the body responds to stress and addiction.
  • COMT: Linked to stress resilience, changing individual differences to a stress response which can, when combined with different influences, increase the risk of drug addiction genetics.
  • CHRNA2: Linked to marijuana abuse, heavily linked to cannabis use disorder.
  • CUL3: Linked to alcoholism and smoking, a variant in this gene can result in significantly higher smoking and alcohol use levels.
  • PDE4B: Linked to alcoholism and smoking, the same as above.
  • PTGER3: Linked to alcoholism and smoking above, the same as CUL3.


How to Find Comprehensive Addiction Treatment Programs

If you are ready to get help for your addiction, our facility can help you manage your current addiction or minimize your risk of addiction due to a genetic predisposition. At our facility, we specialize in individualized treatment that addresses your psychological and physical health at the same time. Treatment might involve:

  • Understanding your addiction.
  • Understanding your genetic makeup.
  • Your triggers.
  • Learning how to prevent relapse with better coping skills and stress management. 


Let Coachella Valley help you with your addiction today.

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