Do Genes Equal Destiny In Addiction?
We know that genes play a role in the development of addiction. No single gene determines whether a person will become addicted to drugs or alcohol because addiction is a complex and chronic disease. There are multiple genes that influence addiction, and environment plays a role as well. We know that genes are important because the number one risk factor for predicting addiction is family history. If you have a family history of addiction, you probably have some of the influencing genes. This does not mean that you are destined to become an alcoholic or a drug addict. It does mean, however, that you need to be aware and careful.
Addiction Is A Complex Disease
Addiction is not a simple matter of one gene causing the disease. It is also not as simple as defining anyone with a family history of addiction as an addict or future addict. There are so many factors, both genetic and environmental, that influence addiction that it may never be possible to accurately predict if someone will develop an addiction. Because family history is such a strong risk factor, we can be sure that genetics play some role.
Those without a family history of addiction may also develop addiction. This shows that environment plays a role as well. Experiencing childhood trauma, such as abuse, or having a mental illness can influence the development of addiction. Still, just because there is a family history of addiction or a personal experience of negative environmental factors does not mean you targeted or marked for life. You still have choices to make about abusing substances.
What If I Have A Family History of Addiction?
With a family history of addiction, you may be carrying some genes that could make you more susceptible to addiction. Remember, though, that drinking or using a drug for the first time is a choice you make. Once you have tried them, you may be more likely than the average person to become addicted, but you never have to take that first step. Genes do not push you to try illegal drugs or to get drunk.
If you are worried about becoming an addict, there are some important steps you can take:
- Abstain -The first and most important thing you can do is simply to abstain from drinking at all and from using illegal drugs. If you need to use prescription drugs that are habit-forming, follow your doctor’s instructions regarding dosing and talk to your doctor about addiction concerns.
- Seek counseling – If you have a family history of addiction, someone in your life likely caused you emotional distress, or worse, because of their addiction. Talking about it with a therapist can help you resolve any issues you have regarding this person and can help strengthen your determination to stay sober.
- Choose sober friends – If you have never struggled with addiction yourself you do not necessarily need to stay away from people who drink, but it can help to surround yourself with friends who also choose sobriety. When you spend too much time with people who are drinking or using drugs, they may try to pressure you to join in. You don’t need that extra pressure.
- Develop a healthy lifestyle – A great way to ensure that you don’t need to use drugs or alcohol is to live a life where there’s no room for substance abuse. Develop a strong social life with supportive friends and family. Engage in fulfilling and enjoyable hobbies and activities. Eat regular, well-balanced meals, exercise and stay healthy and you will have no need for substance abuse.
Always remember that genes for addiction are not destiny. You have the power to make choices in your life and to create the kind of life you want to have. By staying positive, surrounding yourself with supportive people and avoiding drugs and alcohol, you will be taking proactive steps that will make it less likely that family history will repeat itself.
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