Are Addictions Genetic Or Environmental?

DNA strand

Addictions have a wide range of causes and no one cause is more relevant than the other.  There are those in the addiction community who believe that the causes of our addictions are not important.  What is important is getting help and abstaining from drug and alcohol use.  Genetics and the environment both play a role in addictions.


Scientists cannot pinpoint the exact nature of how our genetics play a role in the development of an addiction.  What is known is that a parent passes on their DNA to their children.  Our DNA really makes us vulnerable to addiction; however, it does not mean we will develop an addiction.  DNA can play a role in what addiction we have or how hard it will be to stop the addiction.  Genetics can also predispose us to an addiction.  What this means is that an alcoholic parent will pass on their DNA to the child, who might or might not develop a substance abuse disorder.  An alcoholic parent might have a child who develops another type of disorder not related to alcohol abuse.  A parent might have a mental health disorder and their child develops a substance abuse disorder.  When a person states that their parent was an alcoholic, therefore, they will be one too, has no real scientific foundation.


The environment in which we are raised can influence whether or not we develop a substance abuse problem.  Several psychological theories state that children learn from watching their parents.  Children also learn from their peers and what they see in the media.  If a person grows up in a chaotic, alcoholic home, the child will learn this to be normal and imitate the behavior.  As the child grows up, they too may begin to drink or use drugs because mom or dad did.  Our environments also involve our social groups and what we see on television or in the movies.  Our peers can put tremendous pressure on us to use drugs or alcohol.  We want to be accepted therefore we start using drugs or drinking alcohol so we can “fit in”.  Socioeconomic status can also influence whether or not we develop substance abuse.  There is evidence to support that those who grow up in certain communities or who have experienced violence, might be more susceptible to developing substance abuse problems.


No matter the cause of your addiction, help is available. Recovery is possible for you or your loved one. Call Avalon Malibu today for a confidential assessment and more information on our residential programs of treatment for primary mental health and substance use disorders: (888) 958-7511

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