Who you are as a person is defined by two opposing forces: nature and nurture. Your nature is made up of hereditary characteristics you were born with; these genetic traits are passed down from your parents to you. On the other hand, nurture consists of environmental influences that you pick up as you mature. Although which force exerts more control over an individual’s future is up for debate, it is undeniable that both have an impact on who you are as a person.
There are many traits you would expect to be genetic. Such traits include your eye color, hair color, weight, body type, and blood type. Your genetics can make you tall, thin, angular, or good at kung fu, but did you know that your likelihood of becoming a drug addict is also a genetic trait?
According to the new infographic Drugs and the Genetic Code by 12 Keys Rehab, studies show that 40 to 60 percent of your risk of drug addiction is due to your genetic makeup. In fact, 89 of the 30,000 genes in the human body have been linked with drug abuse and dependence. Twenty-one of these genes are responsible for regulating cell adhesion processes in the brain. That means that they build links in the brain that cause addictions to form, and they create the triggers that make you crave your next fix.
Even though drug addiction is a genetic trait, it’s also influenced by environmental factors. Half of all children live with a parent who abuses drugs or alcohol. Broken down, 37% of children live with a parent who chews or smokes tobacco; 24% live with a parent who binge drinks; and 13% live with a parent who consumes illegal substances. The child of a drug addict is eight times more likely to develop a drug problem of their own. In fact, children who have seen their parents use drugs are two times more likely to get drunk in a given month, three times more likely to have used marijuana, and three times more likely to have tried cigarettes.
In school, these problems are even scarier. Two-thirds of high schoolers and a quarter of middle schoolers report that drugs are kept, sold, and used on school grounds. In a given hour, these students are three times more likely to have access to marijuana and two times more likely to consume prescription drugs. Drugs are an inescapable part of the school experience in 2013, so it is important to talk to your children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol before their classmates introduce them to these treacherous substances.
Ultimately, it would seem that drug addiction is the result of a complex combination of genetic factors. While we might not have control over our own genetic makeup, we can control or limit the negative impact of certain environmental influences on our and our children’s chances of developing drug and alcohol problems. Talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol, and if you suspect a loved one is in need of a helping hand with their addiction, consider contacting a licensed rehab clinic for guidance.
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