Is Having An Addictive Personality Genetic?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 29, 2021

The risk of substance abuse has been linked to genetic and hereditary factors. But is an addictive personality genetic? Find information here about signs of an addictive personality, whether an addictive personality can be genetic, and addiction treatment options.

Is An Addictive Personality Genetic?

Drug and alcohol abuse is known to have a genetic link. That is, a person’s genes may potentially influence their risk for developing a substance use disorder at some point in their lifetime.

But what about an addictive personality? The answer is complicated. Drug and alcohol addiction, first and foremost, is known to run in families, and can be influenced by a variety of factors.

Generally, personality traits are believed to develop less as a result of a person’s genetics, as much as their upbringing, environment, and other social and personal factors.

Learn more about the impact of substance abuse on families

What Is An Addictive Personality?

An addictive personality has traditionally been described as a personality featuring a set of characteristics or traits believed to make a person more susceptible to developing an addiction.

This includes a higher risk of developing a substance addiction, behavioral addiction, or becoming addicted to certain objects, places, behaviors, or even people.

Common traits ascribed to an addictive personality include:

  • poor impulse control
  • low self-esteem
  • thrill-seeking
  • seeks immediate gratification
  • engages in behaviors (e.g. drug use) compulsively
  • values nonconformity
  • antisocial tendencies
  • mood swings
  • uses substances to cope or relax
  • fails to take responsibility for actions
  • pattern of manipulative behavior and dishonesty

The existence of an “addictive personality” however, has been disputed. Today, there are a number of researchers who believe the existence of an addictive personality is a myth.

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Can You Have An Addictive Personality?

There is no clear consensus about whether an “addictive personality” really exists. In recent years, this concept has been challenged with several supportive reasons.

Arguments against the existence of an “addictive personality” include:

  • No universality: There’s no clear association between certain personality traits and all addictions across the board (i.e. variance between different types of addictions).
  • Lack of evidence: There’s no strong evidence to suggest people with certain personality traits are at higher risk for becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol.

The existence of an “addictive personality” can make for a simple explanation for a person developing an addiction. However, research shows this isn’t necessarily based in fact.

Personality Disorders And Addiction

Certain personality disorders, including borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder, are associated with a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder.

Characteristics associated with higher risk of drug abuse include:

  • social isolation
  • aggression or hostility
  • lack of empathy or remorse
  • unstable moods
  • manipulative behavior
  • dishonesty
  • impulsivity

But it’s unclear from existing research whether traits of a personality disorder necessarily develop before a person’s substance abuse. The nature of their link more broadly is also unclear.

Learn more about personality disorders and addiction

Drug Addiction And Genetics

While there’s a lack of evidence to substantiate a link between an addictive personality and genes, there is evidence to suggest that drug addiction can be linked to genetic factors.

The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), for instance, estimates that about 40 to 60 percent of the risk for developing any type of drug addiction is genetic.

Learn More About Addiction Treatment Options

It’s common for people affected by addiction to want to understand more about the connection between certain personality traits and the risk of developing a substance use disorder.

If you or a loved one are struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, help is available. Call our helpline today to learn more about substance abuse and available substance abuse treatment options.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.

These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on December 29, 2021

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Plymouth, Massachusetts

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