Addiction: the family disease.

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According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD), addiction is a family problem. In fact, there is an entire section of their website filled with resources to help you deal with an addiction in your family. (1) Hazelden. a nonprofit organization that helps people who faceaddiction in their lives, found that 77% of those people they surveyed in 2009 had an immediate family member with an addiction problem. According to their survey, when a family identified themselves as having one family member with an addiction problem, it was likely that there were others withaddiction problems as well. (2)

Genetics Can Be A Factor

Hazelden’s research makes it obvious that there is a genetic component at play when addiction is involved. Indeed, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a person’s genetic makeup could be as much as fifty percent responsible for the risk of addiction that an individual faces.(3) The other fifty percent is due to environmental conditions.

An individual’s DNA makeup can set them up to be more susceptible to becoming addicted. In addition, children growing up in homes where a family member is addicted may not realize that this type of behavior is not normal and they might try to repeat it unconsciously. (4)

Genetics is Only The Beginning

While genetics does help explain how and why an individual can become an addict, they do not tell the whole story. They do not tell the countless incidents in which the addicted family member’s behavior affected the entire family negatively. They do not tell the stories of how the members of the family of the addicted individual struggle valiantly to cope with the issues in some form.

One of the key signs that an addiction is present is how the family member’s behavior affects the rest of the family. Many people are surprised to learn that there is no magic number of drinks that a person must consume or length of time that they have been taking pills before they are considered to be addicted. Rather, it is changes in that person’s behavior that is a signal that they are not in complete control of themselves, but are under the influence of something.

It Can Start Small

Many families experience addiction by their loved ones in small doses at first. It might be a missed outing with the family because of a hangover. Or it could be a reduction in disposable income because of missed days of work. At first, behavior of this nature could be forgiven, or even excused. Eventually, this type of behavior often leads to resentment and an ever-growing distance between the person who is addicted and other family members.

Coping Skills Can Be Lacking

Many people are not aware of how to cope in a constructive manner. While many make a concerted effort to avoid addictive types of behaviors, others may turn to their own destructive behaviors in order to cope with their feelings of anger and insecurity. Learning healthy coping skills can help an individual come to terms with the addiction in their family. In addition, meeting these challenges head-on can help them avoid repeating them in their own lives and with their own families.

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