Sunday, November 17, 2013

Is There a Family Connection for Those Suffering From a Substance Abuse Disorder?

A substance abuse disorder can often be traced to family history, even if you don't know that a family member has had problems with drugs or alcohol. People have long known that families share numerous characteristics, including physical features and behavioral tendencies. If a person's relative, parent, or sibling suffers from a substance abuse disorder, he or she may be more likely to deal with drug or alcohol abuse issues as well. Let's look at the potential family connection.

Role Modeling

Children tend to mimic behavior they witness in their parents and older relatives. Unfortunately, this may also include drug or alcohol use. If a child sees his or her older family members using drugs for recreation and stress reduction on a regular basis, that behavior is likely to be cemented in their mind as a viable solution to life's difficulties. Although this behavior might not be emulated early on, the person may suffer from a full-blown substance abuse disorder if he or she tries drugs later.

Mental Disorders

Some mental illness runs in families, and children with a parent who is living with substance abuse disorder depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder are more likely to have those diseases as well. Personality disorders that cause constant worry and alienation from others are also commonly passed on in families. When faced with these issues, people with a family history of mental illness are more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to relieve stress and mental pain.

Traits that Encourage Formation of a Substance Abuse Disorder

Certain personality traits can be passed from one generation to the next and make a substance abuse disorder more likely. For example, people with more impulsivity may be more likely to engage in risky activities, such as drug use, despite possible repercussions. Sensation-seeking is another characteristic associated with drug and alcohol abuse of all kinds. Finally, tendencies toward anxiety and loneliness may also lead to a higher risk of drug or alcohol abuse.

Neurotransmitter Levels

People vary in their levels of certain neurotransmitters, which could affect baseline stimulation, relaxation, contentment and pleasure. Naturally, these physical differences are passed on through families. When dopamine is low, a person may be more likely to use drugs, especially stimulants. If levels of serotonin or GABA are lower than average, relaxing drugs may be more alluring from the start.

Families might pass down tendencies toward developing a substance abuse disorder, but this doesn't condemn a person to lifelong addiction. With the right treatment and prevention, many people with family histories of substance abuse are able to overcome this aspect of their genetic makeup. By breaking the cycle, people who recover from addiction can go on to lead fulfilling lives without drugs.