Adoption, Genetics & Substance Abuse

A new study shows adopted children are twice as likely to abuse drugs if their biological parents did, suggesting a clear link to genetics.

Brentwood, CA 3/08/2012 12:37 AM GMT (TransWorldNews)

It’s an age-old debate: Nature or nurture? Do we develop certain positive traits or bad habits as a result of who we are genetically, how we’re raised or other outside influences?

A new study shows that adopted children are twice as likely to abuse drugs if their biological parents did, suggesting a clear link to genetics playing a role in the development of substance abuse problems. Of course, substance abuse in the adoptive family is also a risk factor, according to the study, which looked at more than 18,000 adopted children in Sweden.

These results seem to suggest that environment AND biological family history can both play a role in a child's potential for future drug use. Rather than worry adoptive parents, the experts insist these findings should be reassuring, showing the importance of a positive environment.

"For someone at low genetic risk, being in a bad environment conveys only a modestly increased risk of drug abuse," says lead study author Dr. Kenneth S. Kendler, professor of psychiatry and human genetics at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. "But if you are at high genetic risk, this can put your risk for drug abuse much higher."

The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry and showed that 4.5 percent of adopted individuals had drug abuse problems as identified by Swedish medical, legal and pharmacy records, versus 2.9 percent of people in the general population.

Whether your children are adopted or biological, there are precautions that can be taken to help deter drug use. First off, simply pay attention. Spend time with your child, monitor his or her behavior and be aware of changes. This is going to help the child feel secure and loved, placing him or her at less risk for developing a substance abuse problem.

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