Multigenerational Cycles of Addiction


Many People Wonder if Addiction is Hereditary

The answer is yes—and no.

Multigenerational cycles of addiction can devastate families and communities. Research indicates that genetics are responsible for approximately 50-60 percent of the risk for drug and alcohol dependence. However, genes are only one small component of the overall picture. Environmental influences learned behavior, and personality traits might also contribute to addiction.

According to experts at the American Psychiatric Association, addiction is a brain disease: “It’s the uncontrollable, compulsive drug craving, seeking, and use, even in the face of negative health and social consequences. Addiction is a condition caused by persistent changes in brain structure and function. Both developing and recovering from it depend on biology, behavior, and social context.”

Children Imitating Parental Behavior

Children of individuals with substance use disorders are frequently exposed to harmful situations have a high probability of behavioral problems,. These conditions often lead to substance experimentation by the child. These children may also have more access to illicit substances, prescription drugs, or alcohol.

However, just as causation for addiction isn’t solely dependent on genetics, neither is it instigated only by direct influences. Medical experts purport that the majority of children of parents with substance abuse problems do not, in fact, develop addictive behavior themselves.

Breaking the Cycle of Multigenerational Addiction

If there’s reason to be concerned about a pattern of a multigenerational addiction in your family, the best thing to do is talk openly about it. For example:

  • Have appropriate conversations with children at various ages regarding the effects of alcohol and drugs. KidsHealth offers a detailed guideline about what phrasing to use and how to start the discussion.
  • Don’t keep family secrets. Each descendant has a right to know his or her health history, and that includes any issues with addictive substances, mental health, and other vital concerns. The National Institutes of Health provides a confidential online portal to establish a family health portrait.
  • Be honest about your struggles with alcohol or drugs. Just as children may mimic negative behavior, they can also learn valuable life skills through your journey of addiction, recovery, and wellness. Statistics from 2016 indicate that 20 million Americans have some type of substance abuse disorder, but only 10 percent receive treatment for it. What valuable information society learns about generational substance abuse may be expanded as more people seek professional help and share their stories.

If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to alcohol, drugs, contact Jason Lynch at (317) 754-0808.

Listen to Jason Lynch, MS, LMHCA, LCACA, ADS, Discuss The Impact of Multigenerational Cycles of Addiction

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