genetics and addiction rehab help

Is Addiction Caused by Genetics?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

If our chance at substance dependency and addiction were limited to our combinations of genetics, recovery would seem impossible. Why should we change when we are predisposed to having a problem?

While it is true that tendencies towards addiction and substance abuse are hereditary, there is so much more to the story than that. Your general environment, past and present, and your psychological health also bear responsibility towards your predilection to the disease. And, of course, they are all interrelated.


Our genetics can increase our chances of becoming addicted to a substance, such as alcohol or opiates. This does not mean that we will automatically become addicted or that we have no choice. Their addiction serves as a warning to us that the problem exists and we need to be aware not to fall into the trap.

The gene doesn’t cause us to crave alcohol or opiates specifically, we choose our poison. It is an innate psychological tendency towards dependent and repetitive behaviors in general. This is why addiction is considered a disease. This tendency isn’t something we chose, it is something we are born with.

The truth is that genes are only responsible for 50%, give or take, of a person’s dependency problem. That is a whole other 50% coming from outside sources, such as our environment and our emotional health.

Genetics or Environment?

A child who grew up in a home with someone dependent on drugs and/or alcohol learns different life-lessons than a child who comes from a home where drugs weren’t a problem. Those of us who come from childhood environments affected by alcohol addiction, for example, may not grow up with an understanding of how much alcohol is okay and how much is not.

The way we think about ourselves and the world are formed by our environment as children. Many of us spend a long time as adults healing from our childhoods. But your current environment affects you just as much.

What are your current family dynamics? Do you have roommates who overindulge? Do you spend a significant amount of time with someone who may still have an addiction problem? Are there triggers in your own home that remind you of using?

Triggering is a quick heightened sense of anxiety that can temporarily weaken your resolve. Anything can be triggering. A certain person, a specific room in your home, or an entire town may be triggering. A special cup, a certain outfit, or even something simple, such as a dollar bill, can hold tremendous power over someone who is trying to say no.

Psychological Health

A person who has suffered trauma will show evidence of this in their behavior and in their decision-making. That is, unfortunately, how humans work. That doesn’t mean that all of our decisions will automatically be bad.

Many of our decisions are made from places of strength and others from places of fear. They are a reflection of what we have learned about the world and about ourselves through the lens of trauma and experience.

Trauma can cause low self-esteem, loneliness, and depression, which all exacerbate addiction and further decrease our ability to make the best decisions for ourselves. Our genes may make using more appealing, but our environment and psychological state are what guide our hands.

So, if you or a loved one are suffering from a painful addiction, know that you are not doomed to suffer from substance abuse just because your ancestors did. There are effective and powerful ways to attack the problem from different directions.

First Steps Recovery in Fresno California is a premier addiction treatment center dedicated to your entire recovery. Contact us online or call us anytime at 844-489-0836. We are here when you are ready to take that first step.

Meet Our Team
Meet Our Team

From our certified therapists and nurses to our emotional support animal "Cooper", our entire team is dedicated to the health and success of our clients throughout our program and beyond.

Help Is Available. Speak With Someone Today.

Our admission team is available to help 24/7.
Skip to content