Is Substance Abuse Hereditary? 

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The short answer is yes, there can be a genetic susceptibility to substance abuse and addiction. In fact, the American Psychological Association indicates that about 50% of a person’s predisposition to substance abuse can be linked to genetic influences.

That said, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the other half of factors. It also means that just because someone has hereditary risk factors, doesn’t make it an automatic inevitability. Like most risk factors of disease, they can lessen by corrective action. After all, addiction is one disease that is 100% preventable.

substance abuse in families

What Are the Risk Factors of Substance Abuse?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the American Medical Association have identified addiction as a brain disease. In particular, it’s a condition that results in functional changes to brain circuits involved in reward, stress, and self-control. This is a common perception expanded upon by most in behavioral health, mental health, and general medicine. When assessing whether someone is predisposed to substance abuse because a blood relation suffers from it, it’s essential to recognize the full context of all contributing risk factors.

The three remaining important risk factors include:

  • Biological

    According to the NIDA, genes and environmental conditions on gene expression signify a range of 40–to–60 percent of a person's addiction risk. At the same time, there are five mental health disorders that can be hereditary: ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. Left untreated, mental illness is often a major contributor for substance abuse. For this reason, most reputable addiction treatment centers offer dual diagnosis care. It is also widely accepted in data that men have a higher incidence of drug addiction than women.
  • Environmental

    Early childhood development within a family suffering active addiction increases a person’s risk for substance use disorder. For example, children exposed to unsafe circumstances and family member drug abuse typically suffer more behavioral problems, which frequently leads to alcohol and drug experimentation. At the same time, friends and peer social groups are strong influencers, especially for middle school and high school teens. Even if a teen doesn’t have a genetic bias, the need to fit in, lack of adult surveillance, deficient social skills, and low socioeconomic position are key indicators to a person’s risk of addiction.
  • Trauma

    Studies show that individuals who have suffered through a traumatic event have a larger risk of substance abuse and addiction. Much the same as mental illness, untreated trauma diminishes a person’s ability to cope with life’s stressors. This group of people are more likely to use drugs and alcohol as a means to handle life’s challenges or to suppress painful memories. Because trauma can be so wide-ranging with varying degrees of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, it is vital to treat patients with specially trained trauma informed therapy. This is done in conjunction with substance abuse treatment.

At the end of the day, hereditary susceptibility is just one risk factor for substance abuse. However, it is an important one that each family should be mindful of in order to prevent substance abuse. Generally, it’s a collision of risk factors that leads to substance abuse and addiction. Once a person’s brain chemistry and function are distorted by addiction, any combination of behavior, social environment, and biology will need to be remedied for a complete addiction recovery.

The Family Program at Simple Path Recovery

In our family therapy program, family members can share their feelings about their loved one’s addiction and any associated behavioral health concerns. This can be done in-person or take place in emerging telehealth environs. By bringing concerns and resentments out into the open, old examples of behavior are recognized, and new trust is gained. Family therapy is similar to group therapy. Sessions are run by a licensed, professional family therapist, and any family members are invited to join and actively participate. Once things are discussed in a sensitive and meaningful way, understanding and healing can now begin.

Whatever you do, please don't avoid the problem of addiction in your family. Addiction can devastate families before you know it. Like most progressive diseases, addiction will not get better on its own. It needs to be treated and the family can be restored in our Florida family therapy program. Call us today at 855-467-3625. We can help you and your family overcome substance abuse and addiction.

Simple Path Recovery is a beach side, boutique addiction treatment center located in Pompano Beach, FL. Recognized as a Top Florida Drug & Alcohol Rehab, Simple Path is committed to individualized care, 12-step integration, and Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT). Their addiction helpline is available 24/7 at 855-467-3625.

About the Author
Matthew Koenig is the principal of Last Call Marketing, which devotes their efforts to Digital Marketing, Content Marketing, Website Design and SEO, primarily in healthcare and tourism concerns. Mr. Koenig is based out of South Florida. His sober date is June 10, 2013.


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