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Genetics and Addiction: Do Genetics Affect the Potential for Addiction?

With the exception of academic research, if you are reading this, the odds are you know someone who may be at risk for developing addiction problems. These issues include, but are not limited to alcoholism, drug addiction or other destructive, addictive behaviors. While many people with drug and alcohol addictions develop these problems independent of their family history, genetics and addiction do share a link. Genetics play a significant role in not only our physical characteristics but also in our emotional traits and health.

Addiction is a disease that can be successfully treated with proper support and professional treatment. The home environment can also largely influence an individual’s predisposition to addictive behaviors, either positively or negatively. The home or social environment can make or break one’s tendency to exhibit addictive behaviors, regardless of genetic influence. There are many other factors which help in determing if someone will develop and addiction. It’s not always a matter of genetics and addiction.

Genetics and Addiction: Some Facts

  • The tendency to partake in addictive behaviors can be attributed to approximately 50% genetics.
  • Children of addicts are 8 times more likely to develop problems with addiction.
  • Genetics account for nearly 75 percent of a person’s initiation of smoking.
  • Emotional and addiction issues are more likely with offspring of addicts than offspring of sober parents.
  • The risk to children with addicted parents increases, but can be decreased with environmental support and treatment.
  • Sons of alcoholics are 4 times more likely to become alcoholics as offspring without addicted fathers.

How Much Impact Does Genetics Have the Potential for Addiction?

It is important not to consider poor genetics a life sentence for your child. Consider this: a set of identical twins born to an addicted parent only have a 50% chance of becoming addicted. Both twins have nearly the exact same DNA; however, one twin may become an addict, while the other remains sober. Or, both twins may remain sober for the rest of their lives. Odds can be pushed one way or another when genetic influence is combined with environmental influence. Genetics and addiction can be extremely complicated.

While there is some genetic influence in addiction, it should be treated as a risk factor, as opposed to a guarantee. Not unlike cancer or diabetes, the risk factor does not guarantee exposure. One of the most effective things you can do as a parent is to remain aware at all times. Any signs of addictive behavior should be treated more seriously if the child has a family history of addiction. Inpatient treatment as early as possible is one of the most effective ways to combat addiction as aggressively as possible.

Why Should I Consider Inpatient Treatment for My Loved One?

There are many benefits that come with inpatient care for addiction. It is a structured environment that allows the correct influence for the patient. Inpatient care ensures constant supervision and accountability as the patient progresses through the program. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can sometimes be utilized in conjunction with a customized care plan to help ensure effective treatment. People are emotional beings, which can sometimes cause difficulty in making the best choices. The neutrality and experience of an inpatient treatment center can help ensure successful treatment the first time. Inpatient facilities are experienced with evaluating the genetic risk factors while assisting in a supportive transitional period to allow the patient to return home safely.

So What’s the Answer? Do Genetics Influence the Potential for Addiction or Not?

Put simply, like all other inheritable traits, genetics can absolutely influence the potential for addiction. The influence can range from strong to mild and can be enhanced by environmental factors. Genetics are a lot like a crap shoot. We inherit far more genetics than we display outwardly (hence the ability to be a “carrier” of a trait). The same holds true for addictive genes. What is important is to recognize the risk factor, and take immediate corrective action when addictive behaviors are observed. Self-help and family hosted interventions are a poor idea. You will only have one opportunity for an initial intervention, which can become emotional, difficult, or unsafe.

A child initiating addictive behavior who has a family history of the same should not be treated as a “typical teen.” While some teens may experiment with alcohol or drugs, having a genetic risk factor increases risk and changes everything. Recognize the risk factor and seek professional help immediately. Inpatient treatment is safe and structured. It will ensure that all parties remain safe while initiating an effective treatment plan. It also ensures support for family members, which can turn anguished victims into an empowered support network fine-tuned to effectively combat addiction problems.

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