Does Opioid Addiction Have a Link to Genetics?

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August 21, 2019

If you know someone who has an opioid addiction, you may wonder about its genetic factors. Did their condition come from a family member’s genes? Will their children have an increased risk of opioid use disorder? Since opioid addiction has many contributing factors, the answer depends on the person. With awareness of the issue, someone with a relative who has an opioid addiction can manage their risk.

Do “Addiction Genetics” Exist?

Genetics have a role to play in a person’s risk of developing opioid use disorder. Opioids interact with our endogenous opioid systems, or simply the body’s natural opioid system, which can have a connection to genes. Everyone has opioid receptors in their central nervous system that opioids attach to which creates chemical changes in the body. Variations in the genes that impact your endogenous opioid system and neurons could affect how your body processes opioids. Researchers still need more information on the subject, but these genes seem to have a connection to opioid addiction rates.

Everyone has a different response to medications, and genes influence these reactions. Just as you might have a higher susceptibility to a medicine’s side effects, you can have a higher risk of opioid addiction. These genetic differences make up only one of the factors that influences someone’s chance of developing opioid use disorder.

What Other Risk Factors Influence Opioid Use Disorder?

Environmental and psychological factors also impact a person’s risk of developing an opioid addiction. These risk factors include:

  • Personal circumstances: A person who experiences poverty, unemployment or another difficulty has a higher risk of opioid addiction than someone who doesn’t.
  • Mental health conditions: Severe depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions can increase someone’s susceptibility to opioid use disorder.
  • Use of other substances: Using tobacco, alcohol or another “mind-altering” substance influences someone’s risk of becoming addicted to opioids.
  • Previous history of opioid use: Long-time opioid users, even when used for medical purposes, have a higher risk of addiction because of the ways opioids change the brain.

Having any of these traits does not mean that you’ll develop an addiction — it only shows that you have a higher risk.

Can People With a Family History of Opioid Addiction Prevent It?

Possessing genes that make you more susceptible to opioid addiction doesn’t mean that you’ll develop an addiction. Instead, it shows that you need to take extra precautions if you take opioids for pain. With an increase in opioid addiction rates in the United States, doctors have more extensive training for prescribing opioids. If you have a family history of opioid addiction, let your doctor know. They can prescribe a different drug or give you extra supervision as you take your medicine for pain.

People who develop an opioid addiction still have hope because they can manage it like any other condition. With the help of a clinic, they can reduce their symptoms and live fulfilling lives.

Reach out to AppleGate Recovery for Help

AppleGate Recovery helps patients with opioid use disorder and their loved ones manage addiction. Through medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs, we can reduce the effects of addiction and help patients learn recovery skills. For more information about our programs and how we can work within your schedule, contact our staff today.