Recognizing the Genetics Behind Addiction

The opioid epidemic in America has focused much-needed attention on the problem of addiction. Addiction is a substance abuse disorder that results in the compulsion to use alcohol and/or drugs to the point that they impact all aspects of your life. If you’re addicted to alcohol or drugs, you’re at risk of losing your job, your significant other, and your home. Your behavior becomes increasingly dysfunctional if the disease progresses without intervention.  

Alcohol and self-perception

If you’re addicted, you may not realize you have a problem due to impaired self-perception. If you’ve tried to cut back on alcohol but can’t, you might admit to overuse but may deny that you’re addicted. 

Addiction is a medical condition that starts like many physical illnesses. Just as if you have a congenital physical problem that becomes full-blown later in life, if you’re genetically susceptible to alcohol or drugs, today’s environment makes it easy to fall into addiction because both are readily available. 

You may have been introduced to alcohol at a college fraternity party and liked the way it changed your usual appearance as a wallflower to the life of the party. Using it to overcome your shyness soon became a habit you couldn’t break. 

Genetics and addiction

Why do some people become addicted to alcohol or drugs and others do not? Researchers are actively searching for answers. They do have a partial understanding. Just as with many other health conditions, your genetics and your environment both play a part. 

Through analyzing genetic patterns in families, researchers have found that your genes are responsible for about 50 percent of your risk for developing an addiction. Studies on families, adoption, and twins show that the risk for addiction is usually in proportion to your relationship to a relative who’s addicted. So your risk is highest if you have a parent with an addiction.  

Genes also determine your temperament. Are you an impulsive risk-taker who demands constant excitement? That personality type is at greater risk for addiction. A recent study found that more than 15 percent of adults with ADHD were addicted to drugs or alcohol within the year of the survey. That’s three times the rate for those without ADHD. 

Your genes also control how quickly alcohol and drugs are absorbed and take effect in your body, as well as the way you respond to them. You may have a genetic predisposition to develop an addiction from the way certain genes express themselves in your body. 

Scientists have found that a gene variant called A118G has a high affinity for βendorphin, an opioid neuropeptide and peptide hormone present in certain neurons. If you carry the A118G variant, your pleasure reaction to alcohol and heroin is significantly heightened and differs from the average response. There is some good news. If you do have this variant and become addicted, you’re more likely to stay in recovery when you’re on naltrexone, which is a prescription drug that helps you stay on track. 

What do I do if I’m addicted?

There is hope. At Mindful Urgent Care, we start treatment as soon as you ask for help. We provide holistic treatment and understand that along with your addiction, you may be suffering from another mental health condition like depression or bipolar disorder. Your healthcare provider at Mindful Urgent Care treats your co-occurring disorders as well as your addiction to help bring you back to health. 

Our psychiatrist assesses your needs and prescribes a treatment program. You’ll work in individual and/or groups with our therapists, who have a wealth of experience in treating patients with addiction. 

Call Mindful Urgent Care or book an appointment online today for compassionate holistic treatment for your addiction. 

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