Children of Alcoholics and Drug Addicts – Breaking the Cycle

parentAddiction treatment professionals have long cautioned parents and children that addiction is a disease and can be passed down to other family members. The extent to which substance abuse dependency can affect offspring has always been in question, as there are learned behaviors as well as genetic factors that formulate the risk of the pattern repeating with a new generation.

Research suggests that children who are born to a family with one immediate relative that suffers from a drug or alcohol problem are eight times more likely to develop a similar problem later on life. This compelling information points to a greater need for education and prevention, including being able to identify and address other risk factors that could act as triggers.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 12% of U.S. children live in a household where one or person is an addict. Further data shows that there are at least 28 million Americans who are children of alcoholics.

“This doesn’t mean it’s certain that a child of addicted parents will become addicted. But, what the studies do show is that since addiction has a genetic component, children of addicted parents are predisposed to the disease – just as they would be if their parent had heart disease or diabetes,” explained David Bohl, a program operator in Illinois.

However, unlike many other hereditary diseases, children have a much greater chance of avoiding substance abuse issues for themselves. If they are aware that these problems exist within their family they have the ability to break the chain through conscious effort. Understanding how binge drinking and drug experimentation can lead to abuse is an important part of breaking that chain.

For people who do get caught up in repeating the cycle, there is help available. Contact Addiction Treatment Services for information about effective rehabilitation programs and intervention services today.

Substance Abuse Passed Down One Generation to Next - Addiction Treatment Services

When Substance Abuse Is Passed Down from One Generation to the Next

Substance Abuse Passed Down One Generation to Next - Addiction Treatment Services

Did you know that family history and genetics can put children of addicts at higher risk of drug use and addiction? It’s important to understand how addiction can be passed down in families, and how to break the cycle of addiction.

What Causes Addiction to Be Passed Down in Families?

Anyone can become addicted to drugs or alcohol, but those who have an addicted parent have an 8 times higher chance of becoming addicted themselves.

There is no single cause of addiction and the factors that lead to this higher vulnerability to addiction in families come from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Genetic Factors

There’s not a single gene that leads to addiction. However, there are genes that can:

  • Cause a person to experience more pleasure from certain substances
  • Make it harder for a person to quit substance use once they try stopping
  • Make the person experience more severe withdrawal symptoms, which also make it harder to quit for good

Even if you have the sort of genes that make addiction more dangerous, it’s important to understand that being more susceptible to addiction doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to happen to you.

“Just because you are prone to addiction doesn’t mean you’re going to become addicted. It just means you’ve got to be careful,” says Dr. Glen Hanson of the University of Utah. “It’s not inevitability; it’s vulnerability.”

Science is still exploring this area. Researchers believe that there may be more than 50 genes that contribute, each in their own small way, to addiction vulnerability.

Environmental Factors

Certain circumstances in a person’s life can also lead to a higher susceptibility to addiction. The types of familial situations that can contribute to addiction include:

Seeing Substance Abuse Modeled as Normal Behavior

Whatever a child sees within the family growing up is what he or she considers normal, at least for the first several years of life.

Many children of alcoholics have said something along the lines of, “I thought everyone’s dad drank after work and passed out on the couch.”

It’s not until they’re exposed to a different family environment that they learn this isn’t normal…and then, most likely, begin to have insecurities about their own familial situation.


Many adults drink and abuse drugs as a way of coping with the many forms of stress that accompany limited financial resources. Unhappiness with pay, unfulfilling jobs and working long hours to barely get by leads to high stress and short tempers. Crime and drug trafficking are also more common in low-income communities, adding to stress levels and making drugs more readily accessible, and perhaps desirable.

Physical and/or Emotional Abuse

Trauma is one of the leading causes of substance abuse, and domestic abuse and child abuse are the most common causes of traumatic experiences in America. Many people who abuse substances do so to escape from unpleasant memories, feelings of helplessness and low self-esteem.

How Children Can Break the Cycle of Addiction

Children Of Addicts Become Addicted Statistic - ATSWhile the children of alcoholics and drug addicts are more susceptible to substance use, they may also be more aware of the dangers, having witnessed the consequences of addiction firsthand. Therefore, they may actually have stronger motivation to avoid the mistakes of their parents.

In some cases, however, it’s not always clear to children which factors led their parents into addiction, which makes it harder to avoid those same pitfalls. Gaining a better understanding of the causes of addiction can be immensely helpful in this regard.

Because domestic abuse so often leads to substance abuse in the victim, seeking out professional counseling and therapy services is one of the easiest ways that people can proactively work to prevent substance abuse and addiction in their own lives.

If you have a parent in your life who has struggled with addiction, make a commitment to avoiding all potentially addictive substances, and seek out healthy, alternative ways of dealing with stress, coping with trauma and finding pleasure in life.

How Parents Can Help Break the Cycle of Addiction

Respectable addiction treatment programs will teach recovering addicts relapse-prevention strategies, including:

  • Healthy ways of dealing with stress
  • How to avoid triggers
  • How to build and maintain healthy relationships

By passing on this knowledge to their children, parents can give family members valuable skills that can prevent substance abuse and addiction from beginning in the first place.

Helping your children avoid addiction involves more than just saying, “Don’t do drugs. Drugs are bad.” Children learn more powerfully from what parents do than what they say, especially if words and actions don’t match up. If you’ve struggled with addiction, talk to your children about what led you down that path and show your commitment to recovery through your actions.

Learn How to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Is My Loved One Addicted to Alcohol or Drugs?

Study Looks Into Gender and Environmental Links to Drug Abuse

geneticsandaddictionA group of researchers at Indiana University are studying the effect that gender and environment have on drug abuse. The study examined men and women to see the effects that gender, social environment and genetics had on drug addiction. The results of the study indicated that there is a definite link between the three areas of study and drug abuse.

While scientists have known for a long time that gender plays an important role in the type of experiences a person has, it was interesting for researchers to add in the element of genetics. Men and women go about their day differently, get treated by their families differently, have different responsibilities and have different ailments that they are predisposed to. Taking all of this into account, researchers looked at the different sex’s susceptibility to drug use. For instance, men who have strong ties to their families and who are protected by their families are less likely to abuse drugs. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to abuse drugs if they are sheltered by their families. The data gathered indicates that women have too many pressures on them when they are isolated like that and can resort to drugs and alcohol as coping mechanism.

“It is likely that gene-environment interactions may operate differently for men and women, perhaps because they experience some aspects of the social world in divergent ways. In families and communities, for example, women often bear more responsibility for developing and maintaining relationships, and do more of the care work that is required in those contexts. We cannot assume that a social environment that is favorable for men, and thus reduces the harmful impact of a risky genotype, is also beneficial for women, or vice versa,” explained Brea Perry, medical sociologist and lead researcher of the study.

The conclusion of the study was important because it shows people that men and women respond to environmental factors differently. While genes and gender play a large role in determining a person’s susceptibility to drug use, environment factors play an equally large role as well.