The strange thing about addiction is that it affects relatively few people. Although most Americans drink alcohol, few develop an alcohol use disorder. Even Extremely addictive substances like nicotine and heroin only hook about a third and a quarter of users, respectively. We know there are certain risk factors that make someone more likely to develop a substance use disorder. These include genetic predisposition, mental illness, using drugs or alcohol at a young age, and environmental factors like abuse, neglect, and trauma. The good news is there are protective factors as well and these can even offset the risk factors. The following are protective factors against addiction.
Just as certain genes can increase your risk for certain substance use disorders, they can also protect you from them. For example, non-smokers are more likely to carry a specific allele of a certain gene. As a result, they feel dizzy and nauseous when they smoke and are less likely to form the habit. And people with two copies of a certain gene variation almost never develop alcohol use disorder. Some people are allergic to alcohol or metabolize it badly, which makes them sick when they drink. If your initial reaction to a substance is vomiting, you are not likely to become addicted to it.
Although genetics is a major reason parents are likely to pass on addiction to their children, environment plays a big part too. Homes with addiction tend to be more chaotic and children of addicted parents are more likely to suffer neglect or abuse. Children also learn from their parents’ habits, so they may grow up believing excessive substance use is normal.
However, it can also work the other way. Research has found that even parents with substance use disorders are less likely to pass it on to their children if they can create a stable home life with regular family dinners and bedtimes and so on. The trick is that addiction makes providing that stable home life very difficult. The good news is that a parent with a substance use disorder who gets help and maintains a stable home life may reduce her child’s risk of developing addiction later, even if the child carries the genetic predisposition.
A big reason a stable environment protects against addiction is that children feel supported and protected. However, that doesn’t necessarily have to come from one’s parents. Ideally, children will feel supported and protected by their parents, but if not, grandparents, other relatives, neighbors, and teachers can pick up some of the slack. They’re no replacement for parents, but support from other adults can hedge some of the risk. Social support is crucial for adults too, and developing a social support network is one of the best ways to protect against addiction and relapse.
Pinnacle Recovery specializes in inpatient rehabilitation, trauma recovery, AA programs and AA alternatives, experiential therapy, dual diagnosis, family therapy, co-occurring and dual diagnosis addictions. We also offer a wide range of sober living and intensive outpatient treatment programs. Call 1-866-301-0573 today for more information.