View Full Version : How genetic is addiction? Or at least Alcoholism?


sarahsweets
06-07-17, 06:22 AM
Those of you who know me, know I have been sober for almost 5 years. I am a big proponent of sobriety, however it works for people and have my own recovery story.
I firmly believe genetics are involved, but how much? I don't know. I know for me, my dad was what they used to call "manic depressive" which translates into Bipolar for me, and I believe that is a huge part of my alcoholism. My dad abused many drugs recreationally and I would say he was addicted for sure to speed and alcohol but led a double life of sorts, convincing people it was still leftover recreational from the hippie years or 80's when it was a thing to use stuff like cocaine and speed, in addition to stuff like weed.

He never did opiates to my knowledge but the heroin issue just wasn't a huge thing in those days. He died at the age of 47, 17 years ago of a heart attack in the driveway of his girlfriend's house. On his birthday. (whole other story about that) He had had a heart attack a year before and he hid his substance abuse well enough for it to be something considered an undetected genetic issue but after he died when I had to clean out his office I found bottles of whiskey, adderall that didn't belong to him and even old school 'crank'. So it was a result of alcoholism and drugs even though his official cause of death was MI.

This brings me to this issue:
My son turned 21 in Feb. I do not see signs of alcohol abuse, at least not openly but I do notice that he will have a beer or something like that most days.
He is very responsible as far as I see.
The alcohol rule here is, I can deal with beer in the fridge, no more than a 6 pack and hard liquor has to be kept somewhere I don't know about, and not out in the open so I don't have to interact with it. No wine is allowed in my house because that was my drink of choice.
I know my kids are not copies of me, and I can project my issues onto my kids. But I know my son has struggled with mood altering in the past. Smoking cigarettes off and on, in between railing me for smoking (never in the house).

He told me the summer of his senior year when his girlfriend dumped him he got drunk many times in his room. I shouldn't be surprised that he could've gotten alcohol at 18 I guess, but I still can't believe I didn't know. I know once, I had to pick him up from friends because he smoked weed and the rule about driving home is no matter what call me.

I see no signs of addiction openly or as of yet, and I need to stop worrying about what he drinks, how much and when.
I am not one of those self righteous alcoholics who thinks all alcohol is bad and no one should drink, or someone who judges people who drink.
I cant be the alcohol police and its not my business or job to police who drinks and how much.

But its my son and I feel like I cant help it sometimes. Rationally I know genetics do not guarantee addiction. I don't think my youngest will ever try most things or have an addiction, it just doesn't seem like her personality.
My oldest daughter is just like me in so many ways and I worry about her but I have more control over what she does because she is a junior in high school and I can basically keep track of where she is and who she is with. Plus she's here with the boyfriend so much that I feel like I know what she is up to.
What does everyone think?
Are genetics a huge role in addiction, no role whatsoever or mildly a role? Should I just chill the f**k out and let my son be who he is?
Be nice to me because this is a sensitive topic for me.
Thanks
xxxooo

Pilgrim
06-07-17, 07:48 AM
I think that a significant issue of alcoholism is genetics. That being said learned behaviours is another issue. I'm no expert but I have used alcohol to cope, hence medication ( sorry anybody ).
It's not the only reason , by along shot, but I find that I used medication to cope. Especially with my feelings. I'm still conquering certain hang ups but I think I've found the right tool.

I remember thinking that if I'd had more support I might have made better choices. That's true in a way but only part of the answer.
I was lucky in a way n that alcohol wasn't a big thing in my home. The people I mixed with was a big issue, they liked to go out and drink.
The only thing that kept me sane was sport.
Hope this helps, my 2 cents.

aeon
06-07-17, 08:06 AM
I believe that a genetic correlation can be seen and weighted in multivariable clinical data from a large cohort, but I do not think genetics inform the narrative of the individual in any directly attributable way.


Cheers,
Ian

Cyllya
06-07-17, 05:25 PM
It makes sense to worry about this happening to your kids. I mean, you shouldn't feel like you're being over emotional or silly or anything for worrying. It's probably a good idea to try to not worry much, because worrying has limited usefulness... but it's not like you can just decide to stop worrying answer the worry turns off.

Besides any biological factors or other factors that affect someone's likelihood of becoming addicted to something, I think a big factor in ultimate wellbeing is having the knowledge and resources to recognize the problem early on and nip it in the bud before they ruin their lives. In that regard, your personal experience will probably be a protective factor.

sarahsweets
06-08-17, 04:56 AM
It makes sense to worry about this happening to your kids. I mean, you shouldn't feel like you're being over emotional or silly or anything for worrying. It's probably a good idea to try to not worry much, because worrying has limited usefulness... but it's not like you can just decide to stop worrying answer the worry turns off.

Besides any biological factors or other factors that affect someone's likelihood of becoming addicted to something, I think a big factor in ultimate wellbeing is having the knowledge and resources to recognize the problem early on and nip it in the bud before they ruin their lives. In that regard, your personal experience will probably be a protective factor.

Thank you for this. Seriously, it touched me. Just to be told that its ok to be concerned and that its not one big projection-fest comforted me.

ToneTone
06-09-17, 11:52 PM
My understanding of the genetics is that the genetic element (assuming it is present) only increases the risk of getting addicted. Doesn't guarantee you will be addicted.

Your worrying is reasonable and very thoughtful and smart. I wish my mom had recognized addiction tendencies in our family and talked about this when me and my siblings when we were going up.

On the hiding ... 18-year-olds, no matter how cool and sharp their parents are ... are EXPERTS at hiding things from parents. Truly spy-level, academy-award-winning-level experts ...

But now you know one of his pain triggers ... He got dumped by a girlfriend. I have to say I don't handle getting dumped very well ... and I'm in my 50s. I think the key thing is whether he's drinking long after he's gotten over his pain of rejection.

Frankly, I imagine that your openness with your own addiction history will be of enormous help to him ... as a warning ... as awareness, as inspiration if he slips into some trouble.

Kids really are inspired by their parents' journeys. I work with 18 and 19 year olds ... they are truly impressed by their parents' stories of achievement (and they would sobriety as a major achievement) ... Bottom line ... you have modeled honesty and openness ... and recovery and resiliency. That's will carry over big time to your son.

Tone

dvdnvwls
06-10-17, 05:42 AM
Sarah - I know that you wonder, and that you worry, but genetic predisposition is not something you can do anything about anyway. That part was taken care of almost 19 years ago. :)

mildadhd
06-10-17, 05:53 PM
There is animal research that shows, when exposed to abnormal distressful factors in early in life, may express genetic variants, that may result in having a temperament, that may result in an individual being distressed easier, making substance abuse (self medicating) more likely.

But I think abnormally distressed experiences would be the most likely determining factor, in any possible genetic variant expression.


I could look for the research for discussion if anyone is interested?


m

DJ Bill
06-10-17, 06:19 PM
I know it is anecdotal, but every drunk I know who had kids has had issues with one or more of them with some sort of addiction. My dad was a drunk, and I self medicated with food, then business, then alcohol or prescription drugs. On my mom's side it goes back several generations that we know of.

sarahsweets
06-11-17, 04:49 AM
I know it is anecdotal, but every drunk I know who had kids has had issues with one or more of them with some sort of addiction. My dad was a drunk, and I self medicated with food, then business, then alcohol or prescription drugs. On my mom's side it goes back several generations that we know of.

I have heard of the same situations from friends at my meetings.