The Great Debate: Is Addiction Random or Genetic?

When it comes to addiction, nothing is ever straightforward, and I guess that makes sense considering how confounding of an illness it can be. People who suffer from it are usually the last to know that they are sick and this is because the illness leaves just enough plausible deniability that a person can stay in denial for years. They think to themselves, it really isn’t that bad, or I stopped for a month once, I can’t have a problem. It is a disease of confusion, so much so that even its treatment isn’t straightforward.

Treatment for addiction isn’t a linear path to a finish line, but rather can look dramatically different depending on the needs of the individual. Some people will need to go to a dual-diagnosis program in order to deal with any and all underlying issues they may be facing, while other people may need a more holistic approach to treatment. Some people do very well with just going to a 12 Step program, while others find it more difficult to stay sober within that setting. And if you talk to enough people, you will get enough opinions to make your head spin, all of who believe they are right, and all of whom are to a certain extent.

Even within the medical field, addiction is wrapped in a shroud of debate. Some people believe it to be an illness, while others say it is merely a learned behavior. Some think a cure can be found, while other believe the disease can only be arrested, but the greatest point of contention revolves around the idea of, is addiction random or genetic?

To be more concise here, what I mean by is addiction random or genetic is whether or not addiction is hereditary, randomly dispersed by some unknown cause, or environmental in nature. There is evidence for all three and even room for overlap between them, and while each side believes themselves to be right, the question of is addiction random or genetic continues to be debated.

We have come a long way in our understanding of addiction since Alcoholics Anonymous got its start in the 1930s. Back then, alcoholics were strapped to a bed so they would not hurt themselves during seizures they would have from withdrawals and if they could not manage to stay sober, they were relegated to sanitariums for the duration of their lives. Not much was known about addiction besides the fact that it appeared to be incurable and that it involved some sort of obsession within the mind.


Since then, we have mapped the brain of addicts and alcoholics. We have begun to understand the importance of environmental factors in regards to the onset of addiction, we have learned what treatments work, and we have seen how genetics may play a role in addiction, but we have not been able to prove any of these things beyond the shadow of a doubt.

For instance, while it may stand to reason that addiction runs in families, the actual gene that produces addictive behaviors has not been isolated. To some people, the fact that generation after generation of a family is riddled with addiction is proof enough that the gene must exist, but without its isolation, some detractors are not buying that conclusion. They look to environmental factors as the reason for addiction and they say that it is a learned behavior that the child witnesses in the parent, and then, in turn, takes on for themselves.

However, people who believe addiction to be genetic, point to the fact that among children, raised in the same environment, one can experience addiction while the other doesn’t. To them, this seems to point to the fact that the one child received the genetic material that makes up addiction, while the other did not. Interestingly, people who believe the disease to be environmental look at this same scenario and say that because the children are two different people, with two different minds, their experience of their environment is different and therefore that is why one suffers from addiction while the other does not.

For people in the addiction treatment field, a combination of both genetics and environmental factors seems to make the most sense for what is going on with addiction. They believe that there must be a genetic component to the disease and then the environment in which the child grows up in exacerbates it. Some children within a family may get the genes of addiction while others do not, and some children may have the genes but their environment is so situated where addiction never takes root.

Addiction is complex to say the very least, which is probably why after 70 plus years of research, we still do not have a straightforward answer to, is addiction random or genetic. Truth be told, we may never have an answer to this question that fully satisfies both sides, but in the meantime, we are lucky enough to have programs where people can overcome their addiction and learn how to live happy and useful drug-free lives. Just fifty years ago this was not the case and so until we unlock the nature of addiction, we’ll have to settle for the fact that we at least have a solution.

Seeking Treatment For Addiction or Alcoholism

If you are one of the millions of people caught in the grasp of addiction or alcoholism and you no longer want to live under its constant tyranny, then call the professionals at Dream Center for Recovery today, at 1-877-978-3148. Our trained staff is well equipped to help you finally overcome your addiction and start a new way of life. We understand how difficult making the decision to get sober can be and many of our trained staff members experienced exactly what you are currently going through. So give up trying to fight this thing alone and give us a call today. We are standing by to help in any way we possibly can.