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When it comes to drugs, alcohol, and/or food addiction, we often believe people who suffer from addiction bring it on themselves. However, an overwhelming amount of new research suggests this might in fact not be true at all. Furthermore addiction may actually be a genetic disorder.

Mitchell Wallick, PhD reports “addiction definitely has a hereditary component”.  In fact Wallnick’s research has shown that even in twins who are separated at birth, if one twin has an addiction, there is an increased likelihood the other twin will develop addiction as well.

Many studies have shown the role genetics and heredity play in addictions are very real. Parents who are predisposed to addiction will often have children who are also predisposed to addiction. “We have PET scan studies of the brains of patients who are addicted and who have brain anomalies. Initially, we thought that addiction caused the anomalies,” says Dr. Wallick. “Further study of the children of these addicts showed that they also had a high instance of the same abnormalities and consequent addictive behaviors.

Nature vs. Nurture

As child is genetically predisposed to addiction, this does not necessarily mean that they will eventually become addicted. However, this does in fact mean the chances of becoming addicted to a specific substance or the behavior displayed upon exposure is much greater. Addiction should be viewed as a chemical imbalance allergy. The chemical imbalance is what makes people have a predisposition to addiction. This makes people more vulnerable.

Almost all experts in the field of addiction agree that there is some combination of both genetics and learned behavior in an addiction; however, these two schools of thought lead to two different approaches in treating addiction. There are arguments made by experts in the field that suggest addiction is a moral choice, and therefore is viewed only as a behavioral problem. Experts who support this school of thought agree that someone diagnosed with addiction or addictions can learn to moderate their behavior and can learn to reduce their consumption of drugs and/or alcohol. In other words they are suggesting these people are able to have one drink a week or get high once per week. Experts who believe genes are the real culprit will also claim that heredity supports the saying “once an addict, always an addict.” The most widely prescribed addiction treatment amongst people who share this approach is more often a 12-step support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.