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Commonly, addiction is referred to as a family disease. This is because the consequences of one’s substance use are felt by the entire family, not just by the individual who is struggling with addiction. Additionally, addiction is known to cycle through family members because risk factors are partly genetic and partly environmental.

How Family Can Influence Addiction

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for addiction recovery; however, effective treatment must help clients address and overcome the root causes of their substance use. In a number of cases, substance use starts initially as an attempt to cope with trauma. In other cases, people may use substances casually or socially without realizing that they are making themselves more vulnerable to the development of addiction. 

Treatment will also consider additional risk factors that may make an individual more vulnerable to developing an addiction. One important risk factor to consider is whether or not addiction runs in one’s family. The familial addiction cycle acknowledges that having a family history of substance use and mental illness can predispose an individual to certain types of substance abuse. It also acknowledges that one’s family environment may contribute to the development of addiction.

We are all tied to our families. Some people grew up in a positive, nurturing household while others were brought up in less-than-ideal conditions. There are even people who have grown up without ever meeting their parents. No matter what one’s situation may be, it is fact that family dynamics play a crucial role in one’s development. Family dynamics can influence addiction in two ways: nature and nurture.

Nature as a Risk Factor

The CDC refers to epigenetics as “the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work”. There is no question that substance use alters gene expression and activity. Individuals who have parents that used substances or developed an addiction experience significant changes in their gene sequencing. As a result, they are more vulnerable to substance use or developing an addiction themselves.

The same can be said for other mental health problems. If an individual has a parent or sibling who has struggled with mental illnesses (such as depression, anxiety, etc.) then they are more likely to develop a mental illness. Additionally, those that choose to engage in substance use are already at an increased risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD), even if addiction does not run in the family. This is because the effects of substance use on one’s gene expression are intense and can lead to lasting changes in an individual’s thought, emotional, and behavioral patterns.

Nurture as a Risk Factor

While nature can account for nearly half of an individual’s risk of substance use, nurture completes the whole. Nurture refers to how an individual is raised. For example, children who live in households where substance use is normalized may be more likely to use substances. Additionally, children who experience parental neglect or lack of parental monitoring may be more likely to experiment with substances at earlier ages. There are many risk factors that relate to nurturing. Becoming familiar with these, and learning how to prevent them, can help stop the cycle of addiction in one’s family.

Stopping the Cycle

It is essential to understand that although addiction is complex and disruptive, it is treatable. There are a number of different treatment options available for family members who may be actively struggling with substance use. Treatment will consist of individual and group therapy sessions. Valuable therapeutic treatment interventions may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in addition to various holistic treatment options.

In addition to treatment, family counseling can be beneficial for all family members. Family programs allow family members to talk through their concerns with a mental health professional. Parents and children can reconcile in a safe space where they can confront the truths about their families. This can be especially important to prevent substance use in family members that may have genetic predispositions to addiction.

At Lighthouse Recovery Texas, we believe that family therapy has the power to heal generations. We know how challenging it can be to try and navigate addiction without professional help. Luckily, family programs can offer family members the skills necessary to ensure that all family members feel heard and supported throughout recovery. Oftentimes, family members may not seek out help because they are embarrassed or they feel judged. But with the help of a family program, a conversation takes the place of confrontation. People are given the chance to ask questions, cry, and laugh as a group. Ultimately, these programs offer a safe healing space for all.

The familial addiction cycle can be insidious. Many people who struggle with substance use may not be aware of the roles that nature and nurture have played in the development of their addiction. It can be valuable to understand these roles and to overcome other root causes that led them to substance use. At Lighthouse Recovery Texas, we have a team of compassionate and knowledgeable staff that is dedicated to helping individuals heal from the aftermath of addiction. We offer a wide range of treatment programs and services that will help you address unresolved trauma. Our detox and therapy programs are state-of-the-art and were created specifically for our program. We stand by our methods and promise you the best care and the clinical knowledge to back them up. For more information about our treatment facility, give us a call today at (214) 396-0259.