Yes, there are some genetic factors that may make an individual more susceptible to developing an addiction. One study showed that at least half of a person’s risk for developing an addiction is linked to genetic factors. 1 This includes personality type predispositions and variations in brain structure that, with more studies, may be proven to increase a person’s risk of becoming an addict.
Many famous people in recovery and everyday people who are struggling with addiction may have genetic factors that make them more susceptible to addiction. We explore the possible genetic causes of addiction and alcoholism and offer insight for treating these challenges.
Certain dopamine receptors in the brain may soon shed light on a person’s risks of struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction. Brain studies suggest that people with fewer dopamine receptors for D2 are more likely to struggle with addiction. The number of D2 dopamine receptors in the brain is largely influenced by a person’s genes, making this a potential genetic factor in risk of addiction. 1
Another gene-influenced brain region is the strength of mu-opioid receptors in the brain. Some people have a genetic variant where these receptors have three times the affinity for absorption of endorphins, making them more susceptible to alcohol and heroin addiction. 2
Genes influence everything about us, even our behaviors. Certain gene sequences with HTR2B receptors increase a person’s risk of impulsive behaviors.3 Though these individuals may not have a genetic predisposition to addiction itself, their predisposition to behaviors such as risk taking actions may result in use of drugs that soon leads to addiction.
While scientists are still identifying the numerous genetic causes of addiction, sobriety is still possible. Understanding the genetic influences of addiction can help patients get the specific treatments they need for sobriety.