Am I Doomed to be an Addict? The Link Between Addiction and Genes

Am I Doomed to be an Addict? The Link Between Addiction and Genes

Written By: Fiona Stockard

Kevin McEnroe’s Story: Addiction and Genetics

On July 15th, Kevin McEnroe was arrested on drug charges. Kevin is the son of tennis legend John McEnroe and Academy Award winning actress Tatum O’Neal.

Addiction and Genetics

Kevin was arrested in New York City’s East Village. Upon searching him, police found a LOT of drugs. In total, they confiscated: one Tranxene pill, six bags of coke, ten Morphine pills, ten unidentified pills, and twenty oxycodone pills.

Kevin’s dealer was also arrested. He was carrying thirteen bags and three large vials of coke.

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So What’s the Big Deal?

Another privileged white guy from New York arrested for drug possession. Is this story even news? At first glance, maybe it isn’t. Let’s dig just a bit deeper, though.

Did you know that both his father and mother are addicts? That’s right, John McEnroe and Tatum O’Neal both used to get high.

John got sober a long time ago, but Tatum is a different story. She was sober for a number of years. She even wrote a bestselling memoir about her addiction. In 2008, she was arrested for attempting to buy crack.

This raises the REAL question, is addiction genetic?

Is Addiction Genetic?

There’s no easy answer for the question of whether addiction is genetic. It is and it isn’t. There are some hard facts, though.

• Addiction is about 50% genetic and 50% environmental

• Children of addicts are eight times more likely to become addicts themselves

• Your genes aren’t your destiny

This last part is important. Remember, addiction is part genetic and part environmental. That’s where personal growth and individual responsibility come in.

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Why is Addiction Genetic?

One of the reasons genes play such a large role in addiction is that, millions of years ago, they served an important purpose. Think about it like this – when an animal eats a food that’s good for it, there’s an evolutionary advantage to associating pleasure with that food.

Today, humans no longer need this particular gene, but it’s still there. It’s hardwired into our makeup by millions of years of evolution. Because we no longer need to associate pleasure with berries, the gene finds other ways to work. It tells our brain “wow, that hit of crack was great!” or “I should do heroin again.”

Am I in Trouble?

Addiction being partly genetic means different things for different people. However, we can offer some broad suggestions.

First, find out if your family has a history of addiction. This will let you know whether you’re genetically at risk. If there is a family history of addiction, you should abstain from drug and alcohol use. If you choose not to abstain, you should have a third party, like a therapist, monitor your use carefully. If there’s no family history of addiction, well, you should still carefully monitor your alcohol and drug use!

Now, what about if you’re in recovery and want children? There’s definitely a family history of addiction. The best thing you can do is pass on healthy coping skills to your children. This can mean bringing them to meetings with you, so they’re aware of the dangers they face from substances. This can mean becoming involved in family therapy. This can mean inviting them to join in your prayer and meditation routine.

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