For years the medical community has worked to understand the nature of addiction. For some time it has been accepted that addiction is a disease. It is only in recent decades that the scientific community has found evidence of the role genetics play in the development of addiction. Not everyone who has a family history of addiction will develop a substance abuse disorder. However, the evidence suggests that addiction is hereditary.
Having a family history of addiction means that a person may have a genetic predisposition for developing the disease. But addiction is a complicated combination of hereditary and environment factors. Recent advances in epigenetics — the study of how environment influences gene expression — have provided new insights into the understanding of how and why a person may develop a substance abuse disorder.
Why Is Addiction Hereditary
There is a part of the brain called the mesolimbic dopamine pathway that is activated when drugs and alcohol are consumed. This “reward system” is a carryover from our early ancestry. We once needed more carbohydrates and sugars in order to survive famines and droughts. This was once key to the survival of human beings. Unfortunately, what was once a hereditary advantage is now a primary factor in addiction.
Scientists discovered this reward system in the 1950s. More recently they have been able to isolate certain gene groups that are responsible for the development of certain types of addiction. By comparing the DNA of family members who abuse alcohol and drugs with those who do not, scientists have been able to isolate certain key genes that play a role in certain addictions. For example, individuals who no Htr1b serotonin receptor are more susceptible for risk of addiction to alcohol.
Humans are all an expression of the combination of genes passed down from our families. When someone has multiple “addiction genes” the likelihood of developing a substance abuse disorder is higher. As with other chronic diseases, heredity plays is a key factor in the development of addiction.
Nature vs Nurture: The Role Environment Plays
When it comes to addiction, it is not so much nature versus nurture as it is nature and nurture. While someone may have a genetic predisposition for developing an addiction, the environment that they live in plays a significant role in the onset of addiction. People who have no family history of substance abuse, but grow up in a home where trauma, dysfunction, or addiction are present are at a higher risk of developing substance abuse issues later in life. This is especially true during pivotal ages where attachments and coping techniques are developing.
Recent epigenetic research has shown that the environmental influence on gene expression. It shows our inherited traits. The studies show that the environment can have an impact on whether or not a person will develop an addiction. There can be a genetic tendency for addiction. However, if the home environment is stable addiction may not become a problem. Alternatively, a predisposition for addiction can lead to exaggerated stress responses. This is a result of inherited traits. It can be triggered as a result of early traumatic or stressful events. This leads to epigenetic changes that result in addiction.
Other environmental factors that normalize unhealthy behavior can increase the risk of developing addiction issues, such as:
- Family dynamics
- Peer groups
- Social pressure
- Media exposure
According to the American Academy of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) “addiction is a treatable, chronic medical condition involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experience.” Because we understand that addiction is a chronic disease, treatment begins with discussing family history, environment, and length of the addiction. Addiction treatment is designed to manage the disorder during recovery, and maintain sobriety after treatment. Evidence-based addiction treatments include:
Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) — MAT is comprehensive program that uses a combination of FBA-approved medications and therapy for an individualized whole person approach for treating addiction.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) — CBT is treatment designed to help people recognize addiction issues, learn coping skills to avoid risky behaviors. It can also help patients learn to recognize situations that might lead to relapse. CBT is often paired with other treatment methods. It is especially useful for treating co-occurring mental health disorders.
Peer Support Groups — For almost a century, groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have helped thousands of recovering addicts find and maintain sobriety. Peer support groups offer newly recovering addicts emotional support, practical tips for maintaining sobriety, and a community of people who are going through the same thing.
Treatment for Substance Abuse Disorder in Lauderhill, Florida
Addiction is a disease that not only affects families, but runs in them. Substance abuse disorder is a chronic condition that requires a unique individualized treatment plan. At The Healing Place we use evidence-based treatments to get you on the road to recovery.
If you order someone you know is struggling with addiction, contact us now to find out which treatment options are best for your individual needs. Our team of caring addiction treatment professionals are ready to help end the cycle of addiction.