There is a widespread consensus among the drug addiction treatment center community that genetics predispose some individuals to substance abuse and addiction. Many believe that it is possible for people with a family history of addiction to avoid developing the condition themselves by making certain lifestyle changes. Although it is not possible to change a person’s genetic background, there are still some steps they can take to safeguard their health.
Experts recommend the five following strategies for individuals with a family history of addiction:
1. Research your family history. The obvious first step in finding out more is to ask parents and other relatives if they are aware of any family members with substance use disorder. This can sometimes be difficult, particularly when approaching older generation family members as traditional attitudes are very different from today’s view of addiction. Nevertheless, a family history of substance abuse is considered a major risk factor for future generations, which is worth pointing out to relatives who are reluctant to provide more information.
2. Limit or restrict alcohol and drug use. Someone who may be predisposed to develop addiction is wise to limit their intake of alcohol and avoid illegal drugs altogether. This is mainly because it avoids developing a major characteristic of addiction which is losing control over how much is used. Alcohol is perhaps the most difficult substance to remain in control of as it is legally and widely available and if someone is at risk, they should consider not drinking alcohol at all.
3. Notify your health care providers about your family history. It is always important for health care providers to have as much history for a patient as they can and this is also true of substance abuse. There are around 28 million Americans who are children of alcoholic parents and this is a considerable number that excludes those abusing drugs. Although it doesn’t necessarily follow that if a person’s father or mother was an addict that the child will follow in their steps, they may be more vulnerable to developing the condition. Notifying a physician of a family history of substance abuse when a person would otherwise be prescribed opioid painkillers helps them make the best treatment choices for the individual.
4. If you’re a parent, educate your kids about their potential genetic risks. It is important for parents to discuss the genetic risks with their children, although obviously without causing unnecessary alarm. If children are educated on addiction issues and told about their potential for a genetic predisposition, they can make more informed choices. It is not uncommon for older children and teens to experiment with recreational drugs and alcohol and so being aware of the dangers can prevent complications from developing.
5. Disclose your family history to a potential partner. Although it’s not necessary to wear your family history of substance abuse as a badge, it is always worth informing the people closest to you. Individuals who are related to addicts are sometimes unaware of the big impact this had had on their lives and the way it has shaped who they are. A new romantic partner may want to wine and dine a love interest, for example, but if they are reluctant to introduce alcohol into a relationship, this needs to be out in the open.
Awareness is the Best form of Protection
Knowing that people in your family have struggled with addiction illness is a valuable piece of information, particularly for youngsters. Learning about a genetic predisposition for addiction means that individuals can get an early understanding of the illness and how to avoid developing it themselves. Many drug treatment centers offer counseling to people who at risk of developing substance use disorder.
Traditional attitudes towards addiction have changed and we are now in the fortunate position of having significant research studies to improve our understanding further. There are numerous substance abuse drug addiction treatment options available for people seeking help for issues with alcohol or drugs, each using different methodologies. Drug addiction treatment programs vary widely to appeal to all types of people from the faith-based approach of 12 step through to holistic and complementary drug addiction treatment.