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Substance Use Disorder: Genetic or Environmental?

People frequently struggle to understand the connections between substance use disorder (SUD), co-occurring mental health disorders, environmental factors, and genetics. The mix between your genes, environment, upbringing, social interactions, and heredity can be quite complex.

Genetics, Heredity, and Other Contributing Factors

According to an article in Medline Plus, genetics is “[T]he study of heredity.” Genetics looks at the “[P]rocess of a parent passing” genes to children. An inherited trait is genetically determined, but not all traits are genetic. In addition, gene expression is influenced by the environment, and exposure to environmental factors can change DNA.

Just because you have a family member with SUD does not mean that you will inherit the problem; having hereditary factors doesn’t automatically stack the cards against you. If you have a parent with SUD, you could say that you have a genetic predisposition for SUD, but that factor alone doesn’t mean that you will develop SUD. A family history of SUD is only one risk factor.

Other factors play a significant role as well. These other factors can include:

  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Social and economic environment
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Mental health issues

Family Factors

Your family — the way you were raised — can play a significant role in the development of SUD. If you had a parent who used drugs or drank alcohol, you might have learned that behavior from them. Because people in your family used drugs or drank, you were exposed to these substances and may have had the opportunity to use them as well.

Seeing family members drink or use drugs could have normalized those experiences for you. You may also have seen family members who struggled with addiction. In addition, if you grew up in a difficult environment, you may have looked to drugs or alcohol as a way to escape.

Turning Potential Liability Into Advantage

Being around family members who used drugs or alcohol or who developed SUD isn’t automatically a problem for you. Having a genetic predisposition to any disorder is something you can use to your advantage. Being informed about genetics and the causes of any disorder allows you to understand the predisposition in ways that will enable you to minimize risk and understand the treatment.

Being in a treatment program that is well-suited to you can allow you to learn to manage your disorder and educate yourself. You will become aware of stress, triggers, and your unique needs. You will develop tools and coping mechanisms to manage your condition in a healthy way.

The best treatment programs will meet the needs of your entire person in an integrated way; it is essential to address both physical and psychological needs. Educating yourself is key to successful recovery and long-term sobriety. With the right tools, you can transform a potential problem into good mental and physical health.

Knowing the risk factors contributing to substance use disorder (SUD) is important to find an excellent treatment program. Your risk is a combination of genetics, environment, trauma, and other life experiences. The more risk factors you have, the higher the chance you will develop SUD and possibly a co-occurring disorder. Environmental and social influences play a huge part in your SUD; understanding how everything connects will make your program more effective. Comprehensive mental health treatment offered by The Guest House can help you understand the factors contributing to your SUD. For more information, call (855) 483-7800.