Q: If both parents are addicts, does that
increase the child’s chances of addiction?
A. There is a fifty-fifty chance.
The more alcoholics there are in a family, the higher the odds of passing along this addiction. In fact, when both parents have had substance abuse issues, the odds are 50/50 that their children will as well—should they decide to experiment with alcohol or drugs.
So what does that mean? In a case where both parents have a problem, with the odds at 50/50, will half of the kids become addicts? Not necessarily. This is an average. But it does mean the likelihood of becoming dependent is very high. Knowing this can help families recognize warning signs earlier rather than later. Depending on their maturity level, children and teenagers may decide to wait until early adulthood to begin experimentation (or, they may decide not to start at all).
Parents and other family members with such histories can consider how to help their children avoid developing a substance abuse problem. It is also a good idea for them to educate their children as to what is likely to happen if they are not on their guard. Knowing the dangers, facts, and warning signs of addiction is helpful, especially for those with a genetic predisposition. If we can get these kids to even delay trying drugs or alcohol, it will help to lessen their chances of falling into a life of dependency. Many research studies show that the later someone waits to start using, the less likely they are to become dependent.
This “Q & A with Joe Herzanek” is excerpted from Part 5 of “Why Don’t They Just Quit? What families and friends need to know about addiction and recovery.”
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