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Do Genetics Play a Role in Addiction?

Although 23.5 million Americans are currently addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, only 10% of them receive the treatment they need. Because many people believe the (false) notion that addiction is a matter of willpower, embarrassment and frustration can prevent them from getting the help they need. 

The reality is that there are many factors at play when it comes to addiction -- and that includes genetics. As a double-board certified psychiatrist in both General and Addiction Psychiatry,  Dr. Hadi Estakhri is experienced when it comes to helping patients begin their journey towards overcoming addiction. If you’re looking for freedom from addiction, we encourage you to make an appointment here at Allied Psychiatry and Mental Health in Newport Beach, California. 

In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about the link between genetics and addiction and how we can help you on the path to recovery.

Is there a link between genetics and addiction?

Yes, there is a link between genetics and addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, many factors influence a person’s risk factor for addiction. These factors include:


Your genetics include the genes you’re both with, and there isn’t anything you can do to alter your genes. Gender, ethnicity, and any underlying mental health conditions also increase your risk of developing an addiction. 

The truth is that, while addiction is the result of many risk factors, you aren’t guaranteed to develop an addiction if you possess any of these risk factors. 


While genetics play a role in addiction, it’s not the only contributing factor. Your environment plays a role too. Environmental factors that influence drug and alcohol usage include early exposure to drugs, trauma, physical abuse (including sexual abuse), stress, peer pressure, and lack of parental guidance. 


Because the areas in adolescent brains that control decision-making and self-control are still developing, the younger drug usage starts, the more likely it’ll lead to addiction. 

Beyond genetics

Even though genetics aren’t the only factors that play a role in addiction, it’s important to be aware of your risk factors. If you, for instance, know you have a genetic predisposition to addiction or an untreated mental health condition that may increase your risk, it’s critical to be aware of your substance use (including alcohol) and to take cautionary steps to prevent addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that educational programs (through schools or communities) can help prevent addiction by educating others on the dangers of drug abuse. Treating underlying mental health conditions and practicing stress management techniques can also reduce the temptation to rely on substances.

Note: drugs and alcohol are the most common types of addiction, but it’s possible to become addicted to other substances or things, including gambling, sex, shopping, prescription medicine, and food (binge eating). If you’re struggling to stay in control of any addiction (no matter what it is), remember that addiction treatments can help.

Addiction recovery: is it possible? 

We know it can be overwhelming to hear about the genetic factors that play a role in addiction, and if you already see the signs of addiction, what’s next? When devising addiction treatment plans, Dr. E takes your genetics (as well as any coexisting mental health conditions) into account during a comprehensive assessment for addiction. 

Additionally, in the case of a necessary detox, Dr. E also may recommend medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with Suboxone or Vivitrol treatment. Regardless of what you need, rest assured that we can help you take your next steps forward. 

To learn more about addiction and recovery, call us or schedule an appointment via our website. You can reach our Newport Beach, California office at 949-258-7135.

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