Predisposition to Substance Use

You’ve probably heard about the concept of predisposition. Namely, that if someone, or multiple people in your family, have a substance use disorder (SUD), that you are more likely to experience the same outcome for yourself. This is based on a person’s DNA or genetic makeup. Predisposition is generally seen because of certain variations of genes that are passed on from one’s parents. As noted by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, while these genes do not specifically cause a disease, they do increase the likelihood of the development of the disease. An interesting note is that not everyone within a family will end up getting a disease, it may pass over children and show up again in grandchildren. There is also the possibility that everyone within a family will end up getting the disease. It really comes down to what side of statistics your family’s genes happen to be on. In some cases, genetic variations account for only a small chance of developing a disease, however, the more genes that carry a variation, the greater the likelihood of disease development.

Epigenetics is something that should also be discussed here because it is the study of either inherited or sometimes the functional change in how the genetic activity is regulated within the body. It also works to explain gene expression, and how it works without dependence of the order of gene codes. It seeks to explain the fact that some genes are actually altered by environmental factors and other contributors that can change the way a person’s genes work. Often, epigenetics ends up being problematic for your children rather than for yourself. Breaking it down, essentially, what you are exposed to now and the things that you do to your body has the potential to significantly impact the way your genes show themselves in your children. Therefore, participating in substance use, for example, has the chance of altering your genetic makeup and passing along mutated genes to the next generation, without you even realizing it. Histones are also commonly studied within the topic of predisposition. Histones are explained as being what gives genes organizational structure. Genes use histones for the purpose of either having more or less control over gene expression. Research has indicated that there is a possibility of being able to manage those enzymes that seek to alter histones, which may have significant positive impacts on the future of SUD treatment.

Beyond Genetics

Even though genetics have been said to play a role in the development of SUDs, there is a little bit more to it than that. Some people begin using substances and their family members have never done so. There can be a feeling of wanting to simply try a substance or seeking out substances as a means of escaping things that you are feeling or experiencing. You may have been influenced to try a substance or felt pressured into it at the time. No matter why a person started using substances, the fact remains that they were ultimately a product of their environment at that moment, and their surrounds shaped their actions, and ultimately impacted in a negative way. Now, if you are someone who has never used substances or does so on occasion, it is important to pay attention to yourself and recognize that family ties may be important to you. It is not to say that because your parents were alcoholics that you will be too, however, you may be more likely to become one because of that fact. In this case, if you are someone who likes to come home from work and have a drink of some sort, but one turns into two, and then suddenly it’s five or ten, you have to be aware of your intake. Furthermore, if you feel yourself falling into a perhaps problematic habit, catch yourself and work to maybe find something else to do when you get off work or just simply being aware of yourself. It may be easier said than done, but you have the chance to not fall into the same patterns as your parents maybe did and you can be the difference for yourself, your future children, and maybe even help those in your family who need your support to move into recovery and work towards a better future. What you do now will impact your entire life and it’s important to keep that in perspective.

If you are currently suffering from a SUD, there is a chance that you feel like it is the fault of your family because they too partook in substance use. Whether they did so before you were born or have been doing so as long as you can remember, their use may have impacted yours. We want you to know that you can break the cycle and stop the appearance of substance use in your family and we want to help you. Make a personal investment in yourself and get help today by calling us at (805)719-7954.

How Do I Break the Cycle of Addiction?

Having addiction in our lives is difficult enough. But for some of us, addiction is familial and/or genetic. Meaning that to overcome our addiction, we must also break a cycle of addiction that has been part of our families, sometimes for generations before us. We face changing habits that are both learned and genetic, and changing the way we live despite all of our predecessors who were also addicts. It is an uphill battle that defies our very nature.

All in the Family

As human beings, we naturally gather in family groups. We share our lives, our laughter, and our tears. Unfortunately, sometimes we also share dysfunction. Do we even know which came first, the dysfunction or the addiction? It is a question that may not be able to be answered, but far too often, they are gifted to us as a pair.

We learn by what we see. So if adult family members are seen using a substance or even just the behaviors that go along with substance use, then that is what we see, that is what we learn. We often don’t know that there is a problem, especially as children. If grandma’s breath smells like alcohol and she has erratic behavior and sleeping patterns, we assume that all grandmas do that.

Sadly, in many families, our first opportunity to drink or use a drug is given to us by a family member, too. It normalizes unhealthy behaviors and gives us permission to carry on family traditions that can grow into addiction and destroy our lives. Obviously, this is not the family inheritance anyone would choose to give. But if addiction is in our family, sometimes, the choice isn’t really ours to make.

Family Dynamics

Our families do love us, the best they know how to. But if we seek treatment for addiction, then it may put the spotlight on them to perhaps acknowledge and seek treatment for their addiction as well. So many family members are content in their own quagmire, and are not only going to be unwilling to support us but may actively act against us and our choice to enter recovery.

It is not fair for someone to have to choose between their family and recovery. But all too often, especially when we come from unhealthy families, we may have to make that horrible choice. In the end, we should look at the big picture. If we choose recovery, then we are free to be better people, including being better with our families. Even if we are disowned, we are striking the match to light the first lamp of recovery in what is sometimes generations of addiction and unhealthy living. We can be the example, be the catalyst to change future generations so that this disease of addiction does not destroy the lives of any more of our relatives.

Overwhelming Obstacles

We have an addiction, and we have been through enough to know we want to change. We know our family is unhealthy, and that perhaps addiction is something handed down for multiple generations. This is what we have learned, this is all we know. That makes recovery so much harder. Now perhaps our families have disowned us, kicked us out of the house, or cut us off emotionally. All because we want to be healthy. We might feel more alone than ever before. We might even wonder why we are doing this at all.

These obstacles may seem overwhelming. But they are not insurmountable. If we are struggling with an addiction, we need people in our lives who can support us. Our family cannot, that has been proven, especially if none of them have acknowledged or received treatment for their own addictions. And while we love them, we must be able to love ourselves before we can truly love them, anyway. It is a shame if our families are obstacles. But we don’t have to let them stop us from being healthy.


When we choose recovery over our family, over our genetics, and over our heritage of addiction, we become a pioneer. We are forging a path that none of our ancestors were able to, and we are changing the future of our posterity. If we have to prune our family tree for it to be healthy again, so be it. It is not that we are discarding our families or judging them, we are simply choosing a new path. If we are lucky, perhaps others in our family will see our path and see our happiness, and join us. That is the ideal. But even if we walk the journey of recovery alone, we can know that we are giving our family the best gift we possibly can: life.

Recovery is like a rebirth for us, and it can be like an awakening within our families. Whether or not our families choose to support us or even acknowledge us, we have the power to break the cycle. To learn more about how Enlight can help you write rewrite your family history, call us today at (805) 719-7954.