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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This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated.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

Does someone in your family abuse drugs? Learn more about how DNA can influence a person’s chances of becoming addicted to drugs in this updated post from 2011.

Every year, NIDA’s top scientists answer questions from teens at schools across the country during Drug Facts Chat Day. In 2010, “I AM MIKE” from Jefferson Township High School in Trenton, New Jersey asked:

"Are you more likely to do drugs if someone in your family does?"

The short answer is Yes.

The risk for developing drug and alcohol problems is higher in children whose parents abuse alcohol or drugs—but it is NOT a guarantee that those children will either use drugs or become addicted. In fact, most children of parents who abuse alcohol or drugs do not develop alcoholism or addiction themselves.

But, research shows that children with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs are more likely to try these substances and develop alcoholism or drug addiction.

Why? Because children whose parents abuse alcohol and drugs:

  1. Are more likely to have behavioral problems, which increase the risk for trying alcohol or drugs.
  2. Have more opportunities to try these substances.

Children may inherit a genetic predisposition (or greater likelihood) for addiction—having an “addictive personality,” so to speak. But, again most children of parents who abuse alcohol or drugs do not develop alcoholism or addiction themselves.

This means that even if you inherited a risk for addiction, it does not mean that it is your destiny to become addicted to drugs. To avoid that risk entirely, it’s best not to start using, and if you’ve already tried drugs or alcohol, the sooner you stop or get help, the better.

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.

The Helpline refers callers to treatment facilities, support groups, and other local organizations. You can also locate substance abuse treatment centers in your state.

Want to learn more? Read more about genes and addiction. And check out the blog posts “Say What? Epigenetics” and “What Increases the Risk of Having a Drug Problem? (Part 1).”

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.


Hi my name is Avron Appollis I'm from South Africa. I'm 33 years old and have 2 children and a wife . I'm currently working in the community with the youth. Let me tell you my my story. I was in addiction and other activities for 12 years of my life .At that time felt good to be on the streets .Doing all the wrond things in life. I tried various times to come clean but relapsed every time. Then I gave Christ a chance in my life that's when everything changed . I started to volunteer at ngo's ( Sanca) then Koinonia where they trained me as a Kemoja facilitator . Kemoja is a Sotho word that means I'm fine without drugs. We did that program in the surrounding schools in Wellington. Kemoja is a life skill programme that consists out of  8 modules such as goalsettins,drugs etc. Then I enrolled for a Social Auxiliary Worker certificate . Obtained that and now I'm working at youth care centres for Social Development in South Africa. Where I'm doing programme to empower our youth. I'm also in charge of the Spiritual side of the facilities. I believe you can do nothing without God . Glory! I've also started a support group at our church where we help addicts and alcoholics with help of God. Phil 4v13! Our main objectives is to gain souls for the kingdom by being a living testimony. I would like to take hands with you guys. And help our community's.Feel free to contact me . Ive got photos of my different stages how I came clean Kind Regards Avron
The Blessings of Christ to you, Avron. I enjoyed reading your comment. God is Good! I hope you continue doing the Good Work.
My mom was a meth addict and 10 years later i have not touch any type of drug
There are different theories related to addiction. Some theorist believe that addictions just like many other health issues (diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, etc.) can be due to hereditary factors. However, many would argue that just because a parent becomes an addict it doesn't necessarily mean that the child will become an addict too. It just means that there is a predispositioned of the child becoming an addict but there are many other factors (risk & protective) that come into play. Some people have what is called an "addictive-personality" and others do not. I would advise you to do more research about what factors attribute to one becoming addicted. Best wishes!
This article is so important to be answered because it should be much more known and acknowledged. It is important for teens to understand this before deciding to go down the path to drugs, because if addiction is in their genes it is necessary for them to know whether they like it or not they will most likely have struggles with the same abuse and this could help them steer clear of it.
So if I am reading this correctly there is a gene that has been identified as being associated with "addictive personality?" Could you please site the s study?

Hi Deb, there is a lot of research into genes that might make people more or less vulnerable to addiction. You can read about some of the studies here: 

Ohhh i really appreciate on how drugs affect in our lives
Wow, this is really interesting. I did not realize that if a child's parents abuse alcohol or drugs, then they are more susceptible to addiction in comparison to a normal person.