Addiction is much more complex than choice and willpower. It involves several factors including your family. Some families are more prone to develop problems with substance use than others. And substance use in one generation impacts the next generation; so, address the family pattern or a vicious cycle of use will continue from generation to generation.

Having a genetic predisposition doesn’t mean you’re doomed to addiction. Other factors are in play as well. But it does mean that if you have addiction in your family, you are more susceptible to addiction than someone who does not.

The tendency towards addiction is related to your genetics, epigenetics, behavior, and learning. In other words, there is a predisposition genetically that can be set off given environmental circumstances and behavioral choices. Therefore, genetics can be an important factor in moving someone from use to compulsive use.

Based on numerous studies, we know that up to 50 % of the risk for addiction is determined by genetics. Now, compare that to heritable risk for anxiety and depression; that risk is about 30-40% which means the inherited risk for substance use is even higher.

Genes are not destiny but consider this for example: First-degree relatives with addiction increase your risk 4 to 8 times. And due to genetics, if you have an alcoholic parent, there is a higher father to son transmission at about 9 times higher. Also, some drugs like heroin, are even more transmissible because of genetics. So, review your family history. It is important to know and informs your risk.

Related to genetics is something called epigenetics. These are external factors that turn your gene expression on or off. They include your lifestyle, experiences, hormones, and things like early exposure to drugs or alcohol. Epigenetics play a role in gene expression and can change brain structures, also making you more susceptible to addiction.

Furthermore, having a mental health disorder like anxiety and depression also contributes to higher risk. In addition, trauma, inadequate parenting, and a lack of social support are more factors that increase the potential for addiction.

We know that family patterns and genetics pass down generationally. But spiritually, those patterns can be broken by the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Galatians 3:13 tells us that Christ paid the price and covers all curses. So, identify generational brokenness and patterns.  Then realize, they are not permanent. You can break their power through repentance, rebuking and allowing God’s spirit to work in you.

You can’t change the past, but you can allow the past to inform your behavior, choices and thinking. This will require learning new habits and patterns and addressing root issues related to substance use. Be committed to change and set up accountability. Learn to play and relax in ways that do not involve substances. Be with sober-minded, passionate Christ followers. Above all else, remind yourself, you are not a victim of the family line, but instead, you are free to make different choices.

All this to say that one person may use a substance and be able to stop easily, while another person may become addicted far quicker due to genetic differences. Hopefully, understanding this will give us more compassion and empathy for those who struggle and desire freedom.

In summary, be aware of your genetics and family patterns and address them to prevent or stop substance use.  2 Chronicles 15: 7 exhorts us…But as for you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.”

Families and addiction: What you need to know