You may have heard that addiction is genetic, and someone descended from a former alcoholic or addict needs to be careful around drugs and alcohol so that they don’t become addicted themselves.
This is true in many cases. One study concluded that children of addicts are around eight times more likely to develop an addiction than those who have no family history of addiction.
However, just because one of your parents suffered from addiction doesn’t guarantee that you will develop your own addiction. Let’s delve a bit deeper into the idea that addiction is a family disease.
How is Addiction Passed Down?
According to the scientific information that’s available right now, there is no one “addiction gene” that you can inherit. However, your genes shape your temperament. If you’ve inherited genes that cause you to be a risk-taker, impulsive, or constantly seek new experiences, you may be more at risk of developing a substance addiction.
The child of an addict may grow up in an environment that makes it easier for them to begin experimenting with alcohol and/or drugs. For example, an alcoholic parent may be more likely to leave alcoholic beverages around the house in reach of a teen or child.
Children of addicts are more likely to grow up in an environment that normalizes drinking or using drugs. The more often they are exposed to seeing a family member under the influence, the more it seems like less of a big deal if they were to try a drink or a pill themselves.
How to Avoid Being a Second-Generation Addict
Just because one of your parents have suffered from addiction, it’s not your destiny to develop your own addiction. Plenty of children of addicts grow up to never have an addiction of their own. Luckily, addiction is something that can be prevented with a bit of education and planning.
The most important thing you can do to is to practice your coping skills. The more often you abuse drugs or alcohol to cope with a negative emotion or situation, the more your brain will associate the buzz of being under the influence with the emotion. Instead of reaching for a drink after a long day, try to do something productive, like going for a run, doing a meditation, or taking a relaxing bath.
If you are concerned about your own or a family member’s use of drugs or alcohol, know that there is help out there and that lifelong recovery can be achieved. Reach out to someone before it’s too late.