You can have a hereditary predisposition towards addiction. But other things such as upbringing, personality, habits and environment also play an important role in the development of addiction.
In some families, addiction is more common than in others. Children, of whom one or both parents are addicted to alcohol, have a greater chance of becoming addicted than other children. And they develop an alcohol addiction at a much younger age than others. This applies more to boys than to girls.
Psychiatric disorders and hereditary addiction
People with psychiatric disorders are also more sensitive to substances such as alcohol and drugs due to their genetic predisposition. This means that addiction can be hereditary at an earlier stage.
No one is predestined to get into trouble with drink, drugs, pills or gambling. Numerous factors determine whether or not this happens. It is a combination of a person’s personal characteristics, the characteristics of the drug itself and the environment. This is often referred to as ‘person, drug and environment’.
- Person-related factors (the person) include a person’s personality, values and norms, age, gender and also biogenetic (i.e. hereditary) vulnerability.
- The drug itself also determines the risk. There are legal and illegal drugs for which tolerance and dependence develop more rapidly than for others. Yet much depends on how much, how often and sometimes even how they are used. Basing” coke, for example, is even more addictive than snorting cocaine.
- The surroundings and circumstances (environment) also play a role. This is not only the family where someone grows up, but also his or her wider environment, for example a neighbourhood with a lot of poverty and few job opportunities. Of course, the environment is not the only determining factor. Someone who grows up in a family where there is a lot of drinking, for example, may or may not pick up the habit. Someone who has experienced many disadvantages due to the alcohol consumption of the parent can consciously choose to drink less or not at all.
Alcohol and other drug problems can therefore be hereditary, but do not have to be. Whether someone gets into trouble with drink, drugs or gambling is determined by much more than just the genes.