Biology, Genetics, and Substance Abuse and Addiction essay


Biology, Genetics,and Substance Abuse and Addiction

Walden University


Addiction is a chronic psychiatric behavior characterized by acompulsive use of a drug with a destructive outcome (NationalInstitute on Drug Abuse, 2014). Researchers in geneticshave revealed that parents with a substance abuse problem predisposetheir offsprings to an increased urge to use certain drugs. Thispaper explores studies that point to how genetic factors predisposecertain groups of persons to substance abuse and addiction.

A research that involved over 50 families revealed that first-degreerelatives of rehabilitated alcoholics had 2-3 times higher chances ofbecoming alcoholics compared to individuals who had nonalcoholicrelatives(Prescott, 2012). This paper asserts that while otherfactors, such as the environment, plays a major role in determiningwhether a person ends up a drug addict or not, genetic factors arevital in prompting substance abuse and addiction.


The presence of certain genes make an individual vulnerable tobecoming an addict to a specific drug. What genetic predispositionmeans as far as substance abuse is concerned is that individuals whohail from a family that has addiction problems find it harder to stopusing certain drugs and whenever they overcome their addiction, theyexperience more serious withdrawal symptoms.

Genetics and age

The Virginia twin study demonstrated that age influences the extentin which individuals’ genetic factors contributes to theirsubstance abuse problem. As such, adolescents are more vulnerable tosubstance abuse and addiction if they come from families with drugabuse problems as compared to older persons (Prescott,2012).

Genetics andgender

Twin studies have also revealed that the effects of genetics on drugaddiction are more pronounced in males compared to females. However,the gender of the alcoholic relative influences the risk ofaddiction. According to Prescort (2012), studies on gender andaddiction reveal that relatives of female alcoholics possess a 40%greater risk of becoming alcoholics compared to when the alcoholicrelative is male.


Drug and alcohol abuse is a major challenge globally. However, whileit is a personal choice to drink alcohol or abuse drugs, certainfactors may hinder one’s rational decision making regarding druguse, and one such factor is genetic composition. During celldivision, a person inherits from their parents certain genes thatincrease their urge to drink alcohol or abuse specific drugs.


NationalInstitute on Drug Abuse. (2014). “Drug, Brains, and Behavior: TheScience of Addiction.” Retrieved on June 12, 2016.

Prescott, C.A. (2012). Sex differences in the genetic risk for alcoholism.AlcoholResearch and Health,&nbsp26(4),264-273.