Studies have shown that genetic predisposition and family history play a large part in the addiction or addictive behaviors. According to Addictions and, addiction is due 50% to genetic predisposition and 50% to poor coping skills. Both genetic and environmental variables contribute to the initiation of use of addictive agents and to the transition from use to addiction.

“This has been confirmed by numerous studies. One study looked at 861 identical twin pairs and 653 fraternal (non-identical) twin pairs. When one identical twin was addicted to alcohol, the other twin had a high probability of being addicted. But when one non-identical twin was addicted to alcohol, the other twin did not necessarily have an addiction. Based on the differences between the identical and non-identical twins, the study showed 50-60 percent of addiction is due to genetic factors.(1) Those numbers have been confirmed by other studies.(2) The other 50 percent is due to poor coping skills, such as dealing with stress or uncomfortable emotions.”

In addition to the genetic factor, learned behavior also plays a role in the course of addiction. Studies have reported that children of addicts have an 8 times greater chance of also suffering from addiction or addictive behaviors. (3)

Although it is important to be aware of your predisposition, genetic factors do not determine your environmental choices. The 50% of addiction that is caused by poor coping skills is where you can make a difference in future outcomes.

Genetic testing does exist to determine the risk factors for addiction. Genomic testing can improve clinical interactions and decision-making. Knowledge of precise polymorphic associations can help in the attenuation of guilt and denial, corroboration of family gene-o-grams; assistance in risk-severity-based decisions about appropriate therapies, including pain medications and risk for addiction; choice of the appropriate level of care placement (i.e., inpatient, outpatient, intensive outpatient, residential); determination of the length of stay in treatment; determination of genetic severity-based relapse and recovery liability and vulnerability; determination of pharmacogenetic medical monitoring for better clinical outcomes, and many other factors, NCBI. For more information on available genomic testing, please visit our website.


1) Prescott, C. A., & Kendler, K. S., Genetic and environmental contributions to alcohol abuse and dependence in a population-based sample of male twins. Am J Psychiatry, 1999. 156(1): p. 34-40.

2) Enoch, M. A., & Goldman, D., The genetics of alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Curr Psychiatry Rep, 2001. 3(2): p. 144-51.

3) Merikangas, K. R., Stolar, M., Stevens, D. E., Goulet, J., et al., Familial transmission of substance use disorders. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 1998. 55(11): p. 973-9.