For most of us that witness our loved ones battling dependency, it’s hard to watch them go down that route. It is difficult to understand exactly what caused these kinds of behaviors and what might have led to their bad habits of abusing substances. Science has now shown us that two major factors in the role of addiction development are environment and family genes.

A person’s world influences his or her mental health and scientists have begun to understand the role of genes in behavioral and compartmental issues during his or her lifespan. According to the NCADD, people whose families have a history of substance abuse have double the risk of developing mental health problems and substance abuse disorders themselves. We now know that addiction is a genetic disease that can affect generations to come.

How does your family influence your addiction potentials?

Family history has many implications for your chances of addiction. Genes are a key factor. But alcoholism and drug dependence are biologically complex. 50% of addictions are due to genetic predisposition and 50% to poor coping mechanisms.v

The tendency to have a single cause is far too complicated, but it does have risk factors. This makes a person more susceptible to addiction. These include mental illness, trauma, neglect or abuse. However, family history is the number one factor in increasing the chances of developing an addiction, it is the strongest predictor. This is due not only to the genetic link but also to the family environment. You are far more likely to have an addiction if you grew up with close members of the family who struggles with addiction.

How is a person affected by a family history of addiction?

The environment of a household can also contribute to compartmental problems and substance abuse. Being in contact with parents or family members who actively abuse substances can cause an adolescent to develop serious mental health issues, may harm personality, create anxiety, or even cause health problems. Overall, family members like this influence other adolescents, making them more likely to develop an addiction. The development of a mental health disorder and substance abuse disorder can create some serious problems for adolescents. These two conditions are often accompanied by low self-esteem, academic problems, solitude, depression and a desire for social acceptance. These can be influenced by the culture of the family and transmitted by certain behavior. Some problems these individuals may have to deal with are as follows:

Pessimistic attitudes

The signs of behavioral disorders, mental health problems or substance abuse in parents can be gestures of dissatisfaction, grievances, hostile acts, and the lack of appropriate behavior. Kids may also experience behavioral disorders or drug abuse because of pressure.

Inconsistent in parenting

Failure to comply with the rules, lack of regular limits which lead to confusion, and poor family cohesion may all be signs of mental disorder or substance abuse. Such issues can also result in a child suffering from high levels of stress or depression, which can contribute to substance abuse or exacerbate behavioral illness.

Unreal expectancy

Unrealistic standards may be present more if parents expect too much from their kids (ex. the burden of doing well in school or caring for a single parent who needs emotional support). This can be overbearing at times and children who are overburdened with responsibilities may seek ways of coping; a sort of act of rebelling.


The underlying problem of substance abuse is sometimes “solved” by sweeping it under the rug. Kids who see parents display delusion of their substance abuse may develop the same sort of behavioral action if they ever develop an addiction. These children may often need to make up for their parent’s inebriated actions, often leading to embarrassment or resentment.

Mishandled anger

Parents who actively abuse substances sometimes can be irritable. This can lead to child abuse, domestic violence, or even verbal abuse. Mishandled anger can lead a child to resent their parents, fight back against their parents, or develop low self-esteem, thinking they are the problem and not their parents. If anger is mishandled, these children can also develop similar behavioral problems in the future.

Factors that influence the probability of addiction due to family history may include:

  • Dysfunction of the family (conflict or assault)
  • An adolescent grows up in an environment that does not shy away from substance abuse (it is “normal”).
  • A member of the family has a mental problem or substance abuse problem
  • The child grows up in an environment that is not educated on addiction

Specific personal and social factors that contribute to the threat of dependency include:

  • Social skills were restricted
  • Unstable self-confidence
  • Little or no network of assistance, parental guidance
  • History of impulsiveness, aggression, or emotional difficulty
  • Trauma and abuse history, such as the high risk of post-traumatic stress
  • Specific medical disorders such as schizophrenia, panic, or bipolar disorder
  • Family or associates who use alcohol or drugs quickly, who are frequent users

How can the risk of dependence be reduced?

Ultimately, when it comes to the risk evaluation for drugs and liquor abuse as it applies to family history, it is not guaranteed that you will develop an addiction if a family member has before. All this means is that you are more likely to develop an addiction if left unchecked and uneducated on the matter. You can be proactive and reduce your risk of dependence greatly if you follow these guidelines.

Here are some measures that can be done to prevent dependency:

  • Avoid drinking or drinking underage; early use increases risk
  • Choose abstinence or check your consumption thoroughly
  • Stop associating with heavy drinkers or drug users
  • Check with a mental health provider if you are stressed or anxious or have depression. Manage your mental health
  • Participate in prevention programs at work or school;

The best way to prevent substance abuse and to alleviate mental health problems is through early intervention. Identification and enhancement of protective factors, such as high self-esteem, self-control, maturity, and positive relationships, may reduce the risk of an adult having an issue with drugs and alcohol abuse related to behavioral problems. Such precautions can also help to reduce the risk of behavioral disorders.

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center® holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.