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Does Addiction Run in the Family?

Posted by on in Drug Addiction
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Twenty or thirty years ago doctors and therapists suspected that alcohol and drug addiction seemed to be a genetic disease. Using observation, psychologists were able to see a strong link between addicted parents and their children. To put it simply, if a person’s parents were alcoholics or addicts then they had a greater chance of being addicted themselves. However, it is certainly not a guarantee. Plenty of addicted parents have perfectly addiction-free children. The medical profession puzzled over just how much of addiction was genetic. Did things like childhood trauma or emotional neglect have any role in addiction? Are certain families plagued with a predisposition to addiction? In recent decades, technology and medical advancements have allowed researchers to find solid evidence for the genetic role of addiction in families.

Genetic Evidence

Recent discoveries in DNA testing and gene profiling has given us new insights into how addiction runs in families. Using gene markers has allowed scientists to identify at least three gene qualities that are predictive of drug and alcohol problems. These include genes involved in alcohol metabolism as well as in the transmission of nerve cell signals and intensity of nerve cell activity. The research reveals that there is also more to addiction than just our genes. People born with these ‘addiction genes’ do not always become addicts. People born without these ‘addiction genes’ can become addicts. So how much of addiction is based on our family? For both alcohol dependence and drug dependence, considerable evidence suggests that genetic factors influence the risk of these disorders, with heritability estimates of 50 percent and higher (D. Dick 2008). So our genes make up about half of our chances of becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. Where do the other 50 percent come from then?

Other Influences

Research and case-studies have found that dozens of other factors can contribute to the likelihood of forming an addiction. One of the greatest factors is the age at which the person takes his first drink or drug. Evidence shows that people who begin drinking or smoking before the age of 15 have a significantly larger chance of forming an addiction later in life. Another important factor in developing addiction is our personality. Certain personality traits are very high in the addicted population. Some of these traits include anti-social behaviors, lack of empathy, and low inhibitions. Children who exhibit these qualities at a young age could potentially be at risk for addiction. Lastly, events like trauma and abuse can lead to addiction. Perhaps the best example of this is in groups of soldiers suffering PTSD. Soldiers with this stress disorder appear almost 4 times more likely to acquire an addiction than those who do not have PTSD.

Originally Posted @ Recovery Blog

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