The Family History of Addiction

imagesThe Family History of Addiction

[Article via Psychology Today. Click above for full post]

Judging by the odds, I’m guessing you know someone who has or had a problem with addiction. For many people that “someone” is a family member. It could be your mom, dad, aunt, uncle, sibling, or grandparent. Regardless of who it is, there’s no doubt it had an impact on your life.

Many of us see our family member struggling with addiction and make the decision to run away as far as we can from that. Others of us, often unconsciously, go down the same path as our loved one by falling into the cycle of addiction. It’s hard to say why people choose the path they do. However, research has shown us reasons (i.e., genetic and environmental factors) why some may go down one path rather than the other.

Many have described their own reasoning for why they think they chose their path. Some who have avoided the pitfalls of addiction have attributed their sobriety to having a loving grandparent who got them through difficult times. It could have been a teacher, friend, or some other source of support that kept them away from alcohol or other drugs. It could have been a future goal, such as going to college or maintaining a relationship, which was more important than the drug itself.

On the other side are those who make difference choices and end up addicted. Those along this path have attributed their choices to their “addictive personality” or certain friends that impacted their drinking behaviors. I’ve even heard them talk about their own parents’ drinking behavior and what it was like seeing them drinking or doing drugs everyday.

From a research perspective, it would be naïve to deny the association between our family history of alcoholism or drug abuse and our own patterns. Various research groups have studied twins to examine how much of our risk for alcoholism can be attributed to our genes compared to our environment. It’s been estimated that approximately 40 to 60 percent of the risk for developing an Alcohol Use Disorder can be accounted for by genetic factors (Heath et al., 1997; McGue, 1999). It may even be as high as 60 to 80 percent for other substances, such as nicotine or cocaine (Kendler & Prescott, 1998; True et al., 1999).

Contrary to popular belief though, there is no single gene that contributes to our likelihood of becoming an alcoholic. Our likelihood of drinking is influenced by more factors than we can count, including our genes, environment, parents, expectancies of what drinking or using drugs will do, and our individual response to alcohol. Having a family history of substance use is just one way at examining the genetic risk…

[Rest of article is posted on Psychology Today. See below for link.]

Original article posted on Psychology Today. Read the rest of the post here at Psychology Today!

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Rubin Khoddam, PhD Clinical Psychology student at University of Southern California, founder of Psych Connection.

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Categories: Addiction Connection, Blogs by Rubin

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4 replies


  1. Creating Change in Our Lives « Psych Connection
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