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What Should You Do if You Have a Family History of Addiction?

family discusses history of addiction in therapy

Family history is the single biggest risk factor for developing a substance use disorder. Studies estimate that about 50 percent of of your addiction risk can be attributed to genetic factors. You are at especially high risk if one or both of your parents have had substance use issues or if you have a sibling–especially a twin–with substance use issues. There are behavioral factors at play too. If you grow up thinking excessive substance use is normal, you are more likely to repeat that behavior. Children of parents with substance use disorders are also more likely to experience abuse, neglect, and other dysfunctional family dynamics. If you have a family history of addiction, there are some ways you can still reduce your risk of developing a substance use disorder.

Keep your substance use to a minimum.

The most important thing is to keep a close eye on your substance use, keeping it to a minimum, and ideally, abstaining completely. Just as some people can’t eat certain foods because of allergies, diabetes, or other health conditions, you are at high risk for adverse effects from using alcohol and drugs. The more you reduce your exposure to potentially addictive substances, the less likely you are to develop a problem

Consider attending a support group.

Social support is a strong protective factor against addiction. When you feel socially connected, you feel less stress and anxiety and less need to cope with substances. It can be especially helpful to attend a group like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, which are for family members of people with substance use disorders. People in these groups often experience the same kinds of problems and the group can help provide support and advice. There are also groups just for teens, which is great because the younger you start taking measures against addiction the better.

Seek help for mental health issues.

The relationships among genes, addiction, and mental health are complex. Sometimes genes predispose you to enjoy certain substances much more than other people do and sometimes genes predispose you to depression or anxiety, and you use substances to cope. Growing up with parents who have a substance use disorder adds other psychological factors into the mix. The organization Adult Children of Alcoholics has a “laundry list” of 14 issues including fear of authority figures, excessive need to please, excessive anger over being criticized, and codependent behavior. When you do experience a mental health issue, get help as soon as possible, even if you think it’s no big deal. The last thing you want is to use substances to relieve anxiety, depression, or anger.

Make sure your doctor knows about your family history.

Many substance use disorders have started out as using a prescription as directed. There are sometimes good reasons for prescribing opioids, benzodiazepines, or other potentially addictive medications, but this should be done with extreme caution, especially if you have a family history of addiction. Make sure your doctor knows about your family history and your concerns about developing a substance use disorder.

Arbor Behavioral Healthcare offers an integrative and holistic approach to treat substance abuse and a wide variety of addictions, as well as underlying mental health and psychological issues. All of the addiction recovery programs offered by The Arbor are designed to heal the mind, body, and spirit leading to a lifetime of sobriety, health and wellness. If you’re ready to find healing and restoration in a peaceful, loving environment, please call us today at 844-560-7269.