Does Addiction Run in Families?

family together

If you or someone you know are suffering from a substance use disorder, you may wonder where this came from. One of the longest-lasting debates in addiction and mental health research is whether these diagnoses are genetic or a result of environmental factors. However, determining whether these disorders run in families or not is more complex than you might think. Often, there are a variety of factors that contribute to this disease, and it’s a combination of them that results in a diagnosed condition.

Genetic Influences in Substance Use

When researchers look at hereditary components of substance misuse, they often ask why this would affect some family members and not others. If these disorders are strictly genetic, then it would make sense that a majority of a family would develop a substance use disorder if a parent does. Studies show that there are genetic markers that can indicate a future disorder. However, these genes work differently than other inherited traits, such as hair or eye color. The markers for addiction indicate susceptibility to a diagnosis, but they do not guarantee a person will develop one.

What It Means to Be Susceptible to Addiction

The genes that influence the development of these conditions are similar to other health diagnoses. For example, you may have a family member who has had heart issues later in life. As a result, you are more likely to develop similar issues, but this doesn’t mean you will. If you make healthy eating choices and exercise regularly, you can reduce your chances of this disease. Substance use disorders work in a similar way. If you have a parent who suffers from an addiction, you may be at a greater risk of struggling with this as well. However, environmental factors and lifestyle choices can work as protective factors against this disease as well. Susceptibility increases the likelihood of disease, but it’s not the only thing that determines if you’ll be affected.

Other Contributing Factors in Substance Use Disorders

Aside from genetics, environment and life events can also influence the development of a disorder. Some of the other contributing factors include:

  • Witnessing or being a victim of violence
  • Abuse
  • Trauma
  • Lack of security or support (parenting, housing, finances)
  • Peer influences
  • Existing mental health conditions

Of these, trauma is often the most confusing because the word implies a dramatic event. However, trauma is defined as any kind of experience that alters your sense of safety. What was traumatic for you may not be for another person, but that doesn’t make your experience any less valid. While none of these are definitive indicators of future addiction, a combination of multiple factors does increase the chances of someone developing this disorder.

Managing an Addiction

Understanding the roots of addiction can help you better understand your diagnosis and begin your recovery. At Augustine Recovery, we work with our clients to help them identify potential sources of their substance use disorders and develop coping strategies to mitigate symptoms. We understand how genetics and environmental factors can influence this disease, and we utilize this information to plan for effective treatment. We offer a range of services, including residential treatment, thorough aftercare programs, and transitional living. Wherever you are in your recovery, we are here to help. Contact our Florida rehab center today to learn more. 


Popescu, A., Marian, M., Drăgoi, A.M., & Costea, R. (2021). Understanding the genetics and neurobiological pathways behind addiction (Review). Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine, 21, 544.

Price, M. (2008, June). Genes matter in addiction. Monitor on Psychology, 39(6).