Drugs & Health Blog

Real Teens Ask: Is Addiction Hereditary?

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.
Sara Bellum

Learn the latest: Read our 2014 update of “Real Teens Ask: Is Addiction Hereditary?

On NIDA’s Drug Facts Chat Day 2010, scientists answered a lot of your great questions. This one is from “I AM MIKE from Jefferson Township High School in Trenton, New Jersey: "Are you more likely to do drugs if someone in your family does?"

Rolling the Dice

The short answer is “yes.”

The risk of developing drug and alcohol problems is higher in children whose parents abuse alcohol or drugs—but it is NOT a guarantee. Research shows that children with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs are more likely to try alcohol or drugs and develop alcoholism or drug addiction. Why?

  • Children whose parents abuse alcohol and drugs are more likely to have behavioral problems, which increases the risk of trying alcohol or drugs. They are also exposed to more opportunities to try these substances.
  • Plus, children of parents who abuse drugs may inherit a genetic predisposition (or greater likelihood) for addiction—having an “addictive personality,” so to speak.

Of course, most children of parents who abuse alcohol or drugs do not develop alcoholism or addiction themselves, so your genes do not write your destiny to become addicted to drugs. BUT to avoid that risk entirely, it’s best not to start, and if you’ve already tried drugs or alcohol, stop now.

Help Is Out There

When someone has a drug problem, it's not always easy to know what to do. If someone you know is using drugs, encourage him or her to talk to a parent, school guidance counselor, or other trusted adult. Confidential resources are out there, like the Treatment Referral Helpline (1-800-662-HELP) offered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which refers callers to particular treatment facilities, support groups, and other local organizations. You can also locate substance abuse treatment centers in your state by going to samhsa.gov/treatment.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


This is interesting but i dont have anybody that does drugs in my family that I know of

well half of my family does and since ive read this very informational article im woried

The risk of developing drug and alcohol problems is higher in children whose parents abuse alcohol or drugs—but it is NOT a guarantee. If you see drugs in your home, or at school, find an adult you can trust (like a school counselor or teacher) to learn how you can avoid getting involved with drugs. If you aren't sure what to do or just want to talk to someone, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

No I don't think so, I don't think addiction is hereditary but there is a great possibility that if the parents of a certain individual are drug dependents then their children also when they grow up will likely be a drug dependents. The best contraceptive or to take away from drugs is through sports. We must engage in sports to stay away from drugs, that our priority in [commercial link removed, per guidelines]. We bring you great sports and you can also earn a decent living through sports.

Dude my whole family are drug addicts. Passed down from person to person. I'm just the one person who decided not to try anything to make sure either don't end up addicted. Sports do nothing. My brother okayed football, he's addicted to synthetic heroin and other stuff. My best friend is addicted to pills and he still plays football. So shut up. Playing sports doesn't do anything.

I absolutely objected that this drug addiction is hereditary. It's just that, teenager turns out into this for several reasons. Maybe their parents are more busy in offices, or maybe some other teenager lost hope in life so they've come up into this.

I understand why one might not want to believe that there is a genetic component to addiction. However, it is not about what you believe (or want to believe); rather, it is about what the EMPIRICAL RESEARCH shows. Science is indifferent to personal beliefs and agendas.

if your parents do drugs, it doesnt mean you are going to do drugs. Its possible. But, just as possible for kids that grow up without drugs. unless, you were born with drugs in your body. you can get help. & not be an addict.

yea i know how it is when u have both parents addicted to drugs i got through it and if anyone needs someone to talk to about it [email deleted, per guidelines]

Interesting.. perhaps I'm an exception when it comes to alcohol, my father used to consume alcohol a lot during his young years, I wouldn't say that it was an addiction but he would drink perhaps at least 1 liter of alcohol per week.. I on the other hand don't drink at all, but again I don't know if my dad was "addicted"....

On the other hand, I wonder if the same concepts of hereditary addictions apply to other types of addictions like those of pornography. Are there such things like addictive personalities, like some people get addicted more than others? I'm trying to better understand this.. i found some resources [commercial link removed, per guidelines] but if you know the answer or have other resources please share.

@Devin “Addictive personalities?” Not so much, but there are people with a genetic vulnerability to addiction, so yes, some people are more likely to become addicted than others, especially if they’re around drug abuse growing up. A person’s biology isn’t the only variable—environment also counts, a lot. So, for instance, let’s say you have a biological vulnerability to become addicted to drugs, but you don’t ever experiment with drugs; therefore, you can’t get addicted. Whether someone gets addicted or not really depends not just on their genes, but on risk factors in their environment, the quality of parenting they have, what communities they live in, and other things. And that applies to all addictions.

My father is addicted to perscription pill, just as his father was. My Dad is a cancer survivor and has been through many tramatic and painful experiences. I always worry about me or my sister becoming addicted, So I always try to avoid taking medications even over the counter pills until I can't stand it no more.

@Dallas Vann Thank you for sharing your experience and for bringing attention to the fact that some prescription medications can be addicting, just like illegal drugs. Still, if they are taken as prescribed, prescription medications can relieve suffering and help people get better. If not taken as prescribed by a doctor, or if you take someone else’s pills, that is prescription drug abuse and can lead to trouble, including addiction. In light of your family history, it is good you are cautious. But most people can avoid the problems you worry about and also avoid needless suffering by following a doctor’s orders, and never abusing prescribed medications.

yes. yes it is

it is hereditary, and addictive nature is something that's in you form birth, if not drugs, it will be something, be it food or sex, work stealing, but it will be something, the good thing is, there is hope, people have been known to stop, with the help of GOD, and a good program.

Thanks for your input. And I agree, and going through it. Seeking treatment.

I agree ,addiction is hereditary. Its just dosnt have to be addicted to what your parents are addicted to . My mother has been addicted to opiates for 12 years now and I however am not addicted to opiates but I am addicted to Electronics.

[link removed, per guidelines] Patients not criminals, opiate dependent patients should be treated with modern medicine. Above all, with respect.
I believe everything in life has a pattern including addiction, it's called evolution. A long process of repetition will take place in genes
I believe everything in life has a pattern including addiction, it's called evolution. A long process of repetition will take place in genes
Drugs drugs drugs is the word intead of arguing why do t you ask a real health or scientist or drug professional
What does heredity have to do with addiction

@Tyrik, there is some evidence that addiction has a genetic component, meaning it might be in your genes.  But, like we say in the article, there is no guaratee a child will become addicted to drugs or alcohol if his/her parent addicted.  There is just a higher chance that it may happen.  

But what does it have to do with addiction

@Ty, some science suggests that addiction is hereditary.  This means that if someone in your family is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, there is a higher chance that another family member will become addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.  There are many factors that contribute to addiction.  Genetics (addiction being hereditary) is just one.

My dad drinks a good bit but he is not addicted but once he drinks he is always a little more strict plus he chews tobacco he try's to hide it from me and my sister what should I do

@Unknown, you should speak to a trusted adult, like an aunt or uncle, grandparent, or your guidance counselor at school.  They should be able to help you figure out what to do.

My mother is a meth addict and pill addict my father is an alcoholic like legit he starts drinking when he wakes up so basically hes always drunk and i do have some problems if my own ive been clean off of norcos and xans for a few months now thanks to my boyfriend so yes i agree but its also my parents fault they let me try things not gonna lie i get some strong cravings for pills still but without my boyfriend i probably would still be on them if i'm being honest with myself.

Thank you for sharing your story!