Addiction is a family disease in several ways. First, there is a strong genetic component. Experts believe about half of your addiction risk is genetic because of various genes and gene expressions that affect how you respond to drugs and alcohol or make you more vulnerable to certain mental health issues associated with addiction. Second, you can learn addictive behavior from your parents. You assume what they do is normal and that becomes your baseline as you get older. Also, if you are exposed to drugs and alcohol from an early age, you are more likely to experiment with those substances at an earlier age, which is a major risk factor for developing addiction. Third, addiction causes dysfunctional family dynamics. Different family members take on different roles to adapt to a parent’s addiction. Children of parents who struggle with addiction are more likely to have adverse experiences such as abuse or neglect, which increases their own risk of addiction later. If there’s a history of addiction in your family, here are some ways to protect yourself and your family from addiction.
Know your family history.
The most important thing is to be aware of any genetic vulnerability you might have. Families are often aware of high rates of cancer or heart disease in the family, but they often prefer not to talk about addiction. If your parents struggled with substance use, you are probably aware of it, but you might be less aware of grandparents and uncles, especially if they died early.
Make sure your doctor knows about your family addiction history.
Overprescription of opioids has been a major driver of the opioid epidemic. Most doctors have started following CDC guidelines for opioid prescriptions, which should help reduce exposure. However, if there is a history of addiction in your family, you may want to be extra cautious. If you have a surgery or medical procedure that requires pain management, talk to your doctor about safe ways to do that. Often opioids are not necessary, and if they are, they can be prescribed in very limited amounts.
When appropriate, tell your kids about your family’s addiction history.
It’s a good idea to talk to your kids from a young age about drugs in general, making sure they know they shouldn’t take anything unless it’s given by you or a doctor. At some point, it’s also a good idea to let them know they may be especially vulnerable to addiction. You might want to wait until they’re older to tell them about their uncle’s substance use disorder, but it’s important they know to be extra careful.
Keep drinking and drug use to a minimum.
It may even be a good idea to stay clear of substance use entirely, or maybe limit drinking to special occasions. Certainly don’t keep alcohol in the house for casual use. This may seem excessively cautious, but if you consider the damage addiction can do to your life, it’s probably better to be safe than sorry.
Growing up with a parent with a substance use issue has many psychological effects. Children often take on particular roles than can become maladaptive later. They may end up in codependent relationships. They may suffer from depression or anxiety. Don’t ignore symptoms of mental health issues. Talk to someone about your depression or social anxiety, or whatever else you’re experiencing. These conditions increase your risk of substance use and addiction. Family therapy can also help improve your family’s communication and setting boundaries.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.