Addiction & Recovery Blog

Is Addiction in Your DNA?

Our Genetic Assessment Can Help Guide You


For centuries, mental health and addiction were often seen as a choice. If you could just change your behavior, make a choice to be happy, or not pick up the drugs again, then your problems with mental illness and addiction would go away. Words like “crazy”, “insane” and “junkie” were used to describe those with mental illness and addiction. Even the word “addict” often comes with a stigma behind it, which is why we choose not to use that term to describe those dealing with drug addiction.

Through our research, we’ve found that the foundation of addiction may not be something we choose. Why can some people do drugs once, or even once a month and not get addicted, while others fall into the pattern of addiction after using a drug a few times? The cause of this is may not be a result of bad choices, but rather your genes.

Here is what we’ve learned about the correlation between genetics and addiction, why it’s important to take your own assessment to confirm or eliminate your predisposition to addictive behavior, and what to do if you are at high risk for addiction.

How We Know Addiction can be Hereditary

There have been multiple studies conducted to determine the role genetics has on addiction. A study in 1999 looked at 861 identical pairs of twins and 653 fraternal pairs of twins. When one identical twin was addicted to alcohol, the other twin had a higher chance of becoming addicted. When one fraternal twin was addicted to alcohol, however, the probability of the other twin having an addiction was much smaller. As a result of the differences between the identical and fraternal twins, the study found that 50-60 percent of addiction is due to genetic factors.

Addiction is seen by medical professionals as a disorder, which is why the term for drug addiction in the medical community is substance use disorder. Just like your genetics can play a role in diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, SUD is no exception.

How a Medical and Genetic Assessment Determines the Probability of Addiction

Based on a DNA sample that you submit, our medical and genetic assessment will identify your Genetic Addiction Risk Score (GARS™), an individual genetic predisposition toward addictive behavior. Your GARS will help you or your loved one identify any potential genetic predisposition to addiction or Reward Deficiency Syndrome. Reward Deficiency Syndrome is when a person experiences reward-seeking, addictive, impulsive, and compulsive behaviors. Genetic research links certain DNA variations within genes to these behaviors. Your GARS is a result of identifying 3 things: if you were born with addictive craving behavior, your stress-induced behaving behavior, and your drug and alcohol toxicity induced craving behavior.

What to Do If You or a Loved One is Prone to Addiction

After taking the genetic assessment, you may be surprised at how you feel. Some find relief knowing that they or their loved one is predisposed to addiction because now they can take precautions to prevent addiction, or get the help if they need it if they are at the center of it. You may find peace-of-mind knowing that you, your family member with an addiction, or colleague with addiction isn’t a bad person, but a person with a disease.

This realization can be refreshing as well as create anxiety. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, knowing you or your loved one is inclined to addiction may result in negative behaviors because you may have it in your mind it’s going to happen anyway. You cannot change your genetic risk, but you can actively modify your environment to help prevent addictive, impulsive, and compulsive behaviors.

While this may be true, the biggest reason those suffering from drug addiction fail to get treatment is that they are in denial that their drug and alcohol use is a problem. An estimated 18.2 million people aged 12 or older needed substance use treatment according to a 2017 study, and 94 percent of those people did not receive specialty treatment because they did not think that they needed it. As you can see, the vast majority of those suffering from substance use disorder are unaware of the severity of their use. By taking this assessment, their eyes may be opened to their addiction, and it could be the first step in their desire for recovery.

While these assessments are beneficial and can answer a lot of questions, every person is different. Just like each person’s DNA is unique, everyone has their own distinct circumstances. If you think you have mental illness or addiction, contact a medical professional to provide you with a personal evaluation.

To learn more about the specific medical and genetic assessment we use and how it can help you or loved one, join us this Friday at 11:30am MST for our webinar, Comprehensive Medical and Genetic Assessment, hosted by Dr. Andrew Petersen.

RSVP for the webinar below, or sign up to receive a recording of the session.

Register for Webinar

LEarn More at This Week’s Webinar

Comprehensive Medical and Genetic Assessment

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Why can some people use drugs and not get addicted, while others fall into the pattern of addiction after using a few times? Dr. Petersen, Chief Medical Officer of Forum Health, discusses the biology behind addiction, and how we can determine if you are prone to addiction with a sample of your DNA.


In This Webinar You Will Learn:


How We Know Addiction can be Hereditary


How a Medical and Genetic Assessment Determines the Probability of Addiction


What to Do If You or a Loved One is Prone to Addiction

Learn More

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