If you or someone close to you has struggled with addiction, you might wonder: Is addiction genetic? Am I unable to control my addiction? What help is there?

What are the Signs of Addiction?

Addiction is characterized by obsessive thoughts and actions regarding the substance to which you are addicted. Suddenly work or school obligations don’t seem nearly as important as getting your next fix. Serious addiction is also characterized by substance use despite knowing the harm it causes yourself and others. Real addiction is when you completely lose control, and even if you want to stop, you can’t. You might also be downplaying your drug addiction, doing drugs in secret, or lying about how often you use drugs. So what causes this addiction? Is there an addiction gene or some other way you can prevent addiction?

What Causes Addiction?

The causes of addiction overlap. Most people don’t just struggle with single causes of addiction but rather multiple causes of addiction simultaneously.


Science shows us that a predisposition for addiction can arise early. If someone is exposed to trauma or abuse, it can be a higher risk of addiction. That risk is amplified if the exposure happens during childhood. Trauma doesn’t just have to take place in childhood to have a detrimental impact on the layout of the brain, social and emotional skills, decision-making abilities, or impulse control. Witnessing domestic violence, being abused or neglected as a child, harms brain development and increases your risk of addiction.


Many environmental factors can increase someone’s risk of addiction. If you regularly see family members or friends abusing drugs or alcohol, that seemingly normal social behavior can place you at a higher risk for addiction. Likewise, if you are chronically exposed to adverse environmental factors, especially at a young age, this can change your brain’s structure and how it works. Increased poverty or living in an area with high levels of crime can alter the development of your brain such that the parts of your brain responsible for controlling your impulses and regulating your emotions don’t grow the way they should. Instead, the parts of your brain that act quickly and search for immediate pleasure get bigger. The younger someone is exposed to these environmental triggers, the worse this risk of addiction is.

Previous Addiction

People who have struggled with addiction in the past might have neurological changes brought about by their substance abuse. Many illicit substances change the way the brain works, altering the connections between neurons or the natural levels of dopamine. If you have struggled with addiction and your doctor writes you a prescription after surgery, the changes brought about by your history of drug abuse might result in an increased risk of prescription drug abuse.


So, is addiction genetic? According to the American Psychological Association, genetics are one of many causes of addiction. 

Science has found more than one addictive gene. Cocaine dependence has been linked to modified HIST1H2BD, while alcoholism has been linked to lower and higher levels of ALDH1 and ALDH2, GABRA2, and CHRM2L. How your body responds to stress and subsequently to addictive substances can be impacted by MAOA and SLC6A4.

Is Addiction Genetic?

Genetics account for 60% of a person’s risk of addiction and 54% of their ability to quit. One of the most recently studied areas is the level of D2 receptors, which is a specific type of dopamine receptor. It is thought that levels of this dopamine receptor might one day prove a viable addiction gene. Right now, brain scans can measure the levels of this dopamine receptor. People with fewer D2 receptors are more likely to become addicted. 

How to Find Treatment for Genetic Addiction?

With Total RMH, we can help you with your initial withdrawal management, keeping you safe and comfortable during detox. After detox, your Beverly Hills addiction treatment program will be customized to your needs, including behavioral therapies, group therapy, medication, as well as neurofeedback and IV vitamin therapy to reset the changes in your brain and body to typical levels.

At our Southern California inpatient rehab facility, you get to live in a safe, supportive environment for the duration of your treatment, where we give you round-the-clock service in a space where you can turn your attention inward and focus on rebuilding yourself. Our rehab lets you live at home when you are ready but still travel to our facility for treatment based on the intensity and length of time you need most.

Let Total RMH help you understand your genetics and manage your addiction.