Genetic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes can have an increased risk if a mom, dad, sister or brother is affected. Mental health conditions and addiction are no different. A genetic component may exist predisposing an individual to addiction or mental illness. Environmental factors also play a role but, for some, mental health and addiction may be inevitable.
Genes of Addiction
Studies in epidemiology suggest strong genetic components throughout the cycle of addiction including vulnerability to initial doses of drugs or alcohol, continued use and propensity to become dependent and eventually addicted. Twin studies have helped illuminate alcohol-related behaviors and the consistency with which heritability of alcohol abuse and dependence ranges from 50 to 70 percent. Both genes and environment are also important in smoking-related behaviors, as noted in the twin studies. Nicotine and alcohol dependencies share more than 60 percent of genetic vulnerabilities.
Break the Cycle
No easy solutions exist for individuals seeking answers to the question of how to break the cycle of addiction. With the proper environment and lifestyle, addiction may be avoidable in families, even if a parent is an alcoholic. Experimentation with drugs and alcohol begins so young but the importance of siblings and loved ones in a person’s life cannot be understated when it comes to mentoring children in a positive way. Strong friendships, family relationships and stability support youth in living a long, healthy life free of drugs and alcohol. The presence of positive, adult role models is also important including teachers, coaches and others who engage young people through empowering activities away from drugs and alcohol.
Addiction Runs in Families
Children who live in addicted families who want to break the cycle need to take an active, participatory role to break the cycle. Children may not be emotionally or mentally mature enough to recognize what needs to happen in order to escape. The frontal lobe of the brain is not fully developed until 25 years of age, making it difficult to cope with breaking the cycle at such a young age. Some of the following key points can be helpful when working to escape addiction:
- Surround oneself with positive people, stay away from negative influences
- Find a mentor (teacher, coach, etc) who is responsible and provides good advice
- Get authorities involved if an older family member is threatening or makes oneself feel unsafe
- Understand a loved one’s addiction is nobody else’s fault
Just because an individual grows up around addiction does not mean the person is guaranteed to also struggle with substance abuse and alcohol issues. It is imperative youth find other people outside the family who can support positive growth and forward movement away from negative influences. Although a person cannot help being born into a certain environment, the outcome of one’s future can be shaped and changed with the right tools. It is never too late to break the cycle of addiction.
If you find yourself struggling to make positive life choices and break the cycle of addiction, Hired Power is here to help. We provide resources and information to support your journey to recovery. Call us to find out how we can help you break the cycle.