Nature vs. Nurture: Which Makes Us Addicted?

Updated on May 17, 2021

There is a never-ending controversy over what causes an individual to become addicted. Is the illness brought about by nature or by nurture?

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You can’t look into the debate over nature or nurture without looking at the different parenting styles and genetics. One could also look at the mental health side of things and see how certain disorders can influence a person’s final decisions regarding substance abuse since depression is a mood disorder. There are many other possible influential factors, but for now, these are the ones we will highlight.

Parenting Styles

How parents run their household and discipline their children directly affects how they will grow up and progress as an adult. Even if both parents were to have alcoholism in their bloodline (assuming that this is possible), a solid and supportive upbringing can help shield against any genetic flaws that could cause a person to be more inclined to abuse substances. 

When looking at parenting styles, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has identified four techniques for structure and discipline. 


This parenting style tends to be a lot stricter and involves harsh treatment of the children. Parents will highlight a child’s failures more often than not, and their successes are ignored with this parenting style.


With permissive upbringings, no boundaries or guidelines are set for the child to follow, and they are not taught how to avoid making mistakes or failing. 

Permissive parenting works for some children, but for the majority, the effect of no boundaries can be disorienting and unsettling and is not a successful parenting technique in the long term.


The neglectful nature of this parenting style is neither harsh nor indulgent towards the child. There is no reward model when they succeed or punish them when they happen to fail, and this means that the child will have nothing to strive for or anything to look forward to.

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The child is praised for any accomplishment while receiving helpful guidance and encouragement to improve on their success.

Research carried out by the institute has proven that children raised authoritatively are more likely than their peers to become successful in self-image, academic success, or avoiding substance abuse. 

Yes, stricter parents statistically produce more successful children due to the stable structure and guidance on approaching problem-solving and regulating and expressing their emotions, and developing skills and strategies against the thought patterns associated with substance abuse.

Children are taught how to make healthy decisions when raised authoritatively and are more likely to decide against substance abuse or participate in any other harmful activities. A more nurturing environment could perhaps trigger any genetic components involved with addiction. 

The Role Genetics Play in Addiction

The genetic side of things is often overlooked in favor of a solid and structured upbringing. Research done has proven that male children are nine times more likely to pick up the bottle if they have a male parent who suffers from alcoholism. 

Additional analysis done on this shows that adopted children, even when taken in by a non-drinking household, have the same risk of developing alcoholism as they would if they had remained in the care of their biological parents. 

The NIAA has provided evidence indicating the risk of genes determining alcoholism is around 50-60 percent. The key here is that they use the word ‘risk.’ An alcohol use disorder or drug addiction cannot be inherited, but the risk can be far greater than with others in some people. 

Those with genes that make their taste buds more sensitive that make the beer taste more bitter and not as pleasant are less likely to start abusing the substance. On the other hand, those suffering from various mental health disorders that they may have inherited from family have historically been more susceptible to using a substance. 


What’s the Decision?

Today, when investigating the debate on nature vs. nurture around substance abuse, most scientists will explain that both nature and nurture are interwoven and that genes influence the environments we experience. 

Alternatively, the environment we place ourselves in sometimes, and the things we experience in life can directly change the level at which specific genes are expressed. In short, genetics have the potential to make one potentially predisposed to addiction, but events and surroundings happen to play a more substantial role in determining the outcome. 

To further back this theory, a study was done by the National Academy of Sciences on twins, and marijuana usage found that certain factors in childhood growth and development may play a more significant role in whether individuals will develop independence on the drug or not. 

In conclusion, the evidence clearly shows that even if genetics play a role, parents need to make sure their parenting style will guide their children away from the addictive tendencies and more towards the healthy decision-making skills they should have. 

Recognizing one’s faults is not easy, and parenting is complicated enough without the pressure to fall in line with parenting experts. If you know you have a problem with addiction, it is essential to seek help for your sake and the sake of any children involved.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.