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How Genes and Addiction are Connected: A Simple Explanation

How Genes and Addiction are Connected: A Simple Explanation


How do genes and addiction correlate? You might have heard that the color of your eyes or height can be because of your genes, passed down from your mom and dad. But did you know that genes can also play a role in addiction? Like certain traits or features, addiction can sometimes “run in the family.” Let’s explore more about this.

What are Genes?

Before we dive in, let’s understand what genes are. Imagine genes as a recipe book inside every cell of your body. This book tells your body how to grow, develop, and work properly. Each recipe in the book is a gene you got from your mom and dad.

How Do Genes Connect to Addiction?

So, how do genes and addiction relate? Some genes can make a person more likely to develop an addiction, just like some genes can make a person more likely to be tall or have blue eyes.

Here are a few ways this can happen:

Sensitivity to Substances: Some people’s genes might make them feel a bigger “high” when they use drugs or alcohol, which can make them want to use the substance again.

Tolerance: Other people’s genes might make them need more and more of a substance to feel that same high. This is called “tolerance.”

Withdrawal: Some people might have a more challenging time when they stop using a substance because of their genes. They might feel really bad, like having a terrible flu. This is called “withdrawal.”

However, it’s important to remember that just because someone might have these genes doesn’t mean they’ll definitely become addicted. It’s like being tall: just because your parents are tall doesn’t mean you’ll be tall too. Genes only make addiction more likely; they don’t decide for sure.

Environment Plays a Part Too

Remember, genes are only part of the story. Your surroundings and life experiences also matter a lot. This is called your “environment.” For example, having supportive friends, a stable home, and learning about the dangers of drugs and alcohol can help prevent addiction, even if someone has genes that make them more likely to become addicted.


Genes and addiction are connected, but they’re not the whole story. Just like you can influence your health by eating right and exercising, even if you have genes for certain diseases, you can also influence your risk of addiction. Understanding this is important because it helps us see that addiction is a complex issue, not simply a matter of good or bad choices. And most importantly, no matter what our genes say, help and recovery are always possible for those struggling with addiction.

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