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Navigation: Most US Adults Have Personal Connection to Addiction, The Genetic Factor of Addiction: Why Does it Run in the Family?, How to Help an Addicted Loved One, Treatment Options for Drug Addiction

Addiction is a significant issue in the US. The opioid epidemic, in particular, has been a major concern, leading to widespread addiction and overdose deaths. People get addicted to prescription painkillers and transition to illicit opioids like heroin or fentanyl.

Many families have been affected, not only by the opioid crisis but by addiction in general. But a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), reveals that most adults in the US are affected by addiction on a personal or familial level. KFF is a non-profit organization that does research on major health care issues within the US.

Their findings reveal that the ongoing substance use crisis is worsening and affecting people’s lives even when they are not personally experiencing it themselves.

The KFF poll found that over 66% of adults in the US have a personal or familial experience with drug or alcohol addiction.

Over 27% of respondents who said that they had a family member with a drug or alcohol addiction, but have not experienced addiction themselves, said that their mental health was affected by their loved one’s addiction.

Many US adults have personal connections to addiction, whether through their own experiences, or those of their friends, colleagues, or family members. This connection affects a person’s family relationships, finances, as well as their mental health. It is therefore important to look into how widespread addiction is and how it affects families all over the country.

Most US Adults Have Personal Connection to Addiction

While substance use disorder and addiction have been serious issues in the US for a long time, these problems were further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest KFF Health Tracking Poll, which surveyed 1,327 U.S. adults from July 11-19, reveals some interesting insights about alcohol and drug addiction as well as its effects on public health and family relationships. For starters, two-thirds of this population said that they or a family member experienced a drug overdose leading to an emergency room visit, hospitalization, or death.

According to this poll, two thirds of adults say that they have either experienced addiction or had a relative who was struggling with an addiction to illicit drugs, alcohol, and prescription painkillers.

About 13% of the respondents said that they have felt they may have been addicted to alcohol. Meanwhile, 5% said the same thing about prescription drugs, and 4% said this about illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin, and meth.

Around 16% said that someone in their family had a drug overdose that required hospitalization or a visit to the ER. 14% said that a family member became homelessness due to addiction. 9% said that a relative died from a drug overdose.

While opioid addiction affects many different demographics, it most commonly impacts rural residents and White adults. In fact, 42% of Americans living in rural areas report that they or one of their family members experienced an opioid addiction. Meanwhile, the poll found that suburban and urban areas had smaller shares, with 30% and 23%, respectively.

Additionally, 33% of White adults surveyed said they or a family member suffered from opioid use disorder while 23% of Black adults in the US reported the same. The rate was actually higher among Hispanic adults who had 28%.

In terms of treatment, less than half said that they or a family member who experienced addiction received treatment. Only 46% of the respondents said they got addiction treatment, which supports past evidence that those who need treatment do not get it.

As for mental health issues, those who have an income of less than $40,000 per year have a fear of a family member having a serious mental health crisis.

Because addiction is so common and since a lot of people have a direct connection to it, it’s important to take a look at how it affects people. According to 76% of the people who said they or a family member experienced addiction, this experience had at least a minor effect on their family relationships. Most of them said that it affected their mental health as well as their family’s finances. Many people said these impacts were “major”.

Because of the opioid epidemic, the awareness regarding the dangers of opioid use disorder has increased. Doctors are now taking extra care to ensure that their patients know the considerations and dangers of prescription painkillers, especially opioids.

The KFF poll showed that 69% of respondents were informed by their doctor of the possible opioid side effects, 58% were told to keep their medications in a safe place, and 57% were warned about the potential for drug dependence.

Of course, the poll also showed that most adults surveyed (90%) support policies that aim to reduce drug overdoses like making Narcan available widely to reverse opioid overdoses. They also support addiction treatment centers in their community. It’s worth noting that Republicans were less likely to support safe consumption sites.

The Genetic Factor of Addiction: Why Does it Run in the Family?

Watching a family member suffer from addiction is not easy. However, this is an all too common struggle—as the recent poll suggests.

Unfortunately, addiction has a genetic factor, which means a person’s susceptibility to developing an addiction is partly influenced by their genetic makeup. While environmental and behavioral factors also play significant roles in the development of addiction, research has shown that genetics can contribute to an individual’s vulnerability.

There are several reasons why genetics plays a role in the development of addiction and why it tends to run in the family.

Genetic variation among people can impact how they respond to substances like drugs and alcohol. For example, certain genetic variations might make some people more sensitive to the rewarding effects of these substances, increasing their likelihood of becoming addicted.

In fact, specific genes associated with addiction vulnerability have been identified. These genes can influence factors such as impulsivity, risk-taking behavior, and how the brain responds to reward and pleasure. When these genes are passed down from parents to their children, the risk for addiction can be inherited.

Genetic factors can also affect the functioning of neurotransmitter systems in the brain. It can affect the brain’s dopamine system, which is closely linked to the reward and pleasure centers. When a person takes drugs, they experience intense euphoria, which can get them hooked.

Research involving twin and family studies has shown that addiction has a hereditary component. This means that the risk of addiction can be partially explained by genetic factors.

Of course, the genetic factor of addiction doesn’t work in isolation. Genetic predispositions interact with environmental factors, such as exposure to substances, family environment, peer influence, and stress. These interactions can either increase or decrease the likelihood of developing an addiction.

It’s worth noting that addiction is a complex and polygenic trait, meaning that multiple genes contribute to its development. It’s not controlled by a single “addiction gene” but rather by the combined effects of various genetic variants that interact with each other and with environmental factors.

How to Help an Addicted Loved One

With how common it is to have a family member or friend struggling with an addiction, most people need to know how to properly support them. This can make a significant difference in their journey towards long lasting recovery.

The best way to begin is by learning more about addiction. Educating yourself will help eliminate any preconceived notions caused by stigma. If you want to support your loved one through their addiction, you need to understand that their situation is not a moral failing or a sign of weakness.

Addiction is a chronic and relapsing medical condition that is characterized by the compulsive intake of drugs or alcohol, even when the person is already struggling with its consequences. An addicted person will keep engaging in substance abuse even when it affects their health, their mental state, their relationships, and every other aspect of their life.

Learn about the specific substance that your loved one is addicted to, including its effects and the possible treatment options. Understand the signs, symptoms, and effects of addiction so you can approach the situation with knowledge and empathy.

Depending on the nature of their addiction, research treatment options that might be suitable for your loved one. This could include therapy, support groups, medical detox, or inpatient rehabilitation.

Find a suitable and private time to talk to your family member. Avoid approaching them when they’re under the influence or when they’re feeling stressed.

When you talk to your loved one about their condition, approach them with compassion and express your concern for their well-being. Avoid judgment and criticism. Use “I” statements to communicate your feelings, like “I’m worried about you because…”. This helps you avoid placing blame on them for their condition.

Let your loved one know that you’re there to support them. Show that you care about their health and happiness.

Be patient and understanding, keeping in mind that recovery is a process that takes time. Relapse is common and you need to be prepared to help them if they struggle with keeping their sobriety. Relapse is only an obstacle towards long-term sobriety. It only means there’s more work to be done and they need to learn better coping skills that will help them stay away from addictive substances.

Being patient is very important. However, make sure you are not enabling their addictive behavior. Let them know what behavior is unacceptable and make sure to enforce consequences when they cross the line. This will show them that you are serious about their sobriety.

Set healthy boundaries. This will protect you because at the end of the day, their sobriety is their responsibility, and not something you can control. Having an addicted loved one is emotionally draining, but if you really want to support them, you need to take care of yourself too. In the long run, this will also benefit them as enabling will only delay their recovery.

Suggest that they seek professional assistance, such as a therapist, counselor, or medical doctor. Treatment professionals can provide proper assessment and guidance that suits their specific needs.

Help your loved one find healthy and positive activities to engage in. This can help them replace the time and energy they used to spend on their addiction.

In more serious cases, an intervention might be necessary, especially if they don’t want to acknowledge the problem. This involves a structured conversation where friends and family express their concerns and encourage the person to seek help. Consider involving a professional interventionist so that it can be planned and executed correctly. Having a professional on board to moderate the event may increase the chances of successfully getting your loved one into rehab.

Celebrate even small steps and achievements towards recovery. Positive reinforcement can be very encouraging.

Remember, while you can provide support, your loved one ultimately needs to make the decision to seek help and commit to recovery. If the situation becomes dangerous or unmanageable, don’t hesitate to involve professionals or seek guidance from addiction specialists.

Treatment Options for Drug Addiction

A lot of people with drug addiction hesitate to seek treatment, not only because of stigma and fear of other people’s judgment, but also because they are afraid of going to rehab. This is mostly due to a lack of information about what to expect when they seek help for their addiction.

The treatment options for drug addiction can vary based on factors such as the type of drug, the severity of addiction, the individual’s medical history, and personal preferences. Since addiction is a complex condition, the exact treatment approach may vary from one person to another. A personalized treatment approach is considered ideal because it addresses the patient’s specific needs, situation, and condition.

That said, there are certain treatment modalities that are commonly used such as medical detox and behavioral therapies. These are often used together in order to produce the best results.

Medical detox involves gradually lowering the patient’s drug or alcohol intake while their cravings and withdrawal symptoms are managed by medical professionals. This keeps them safe and comfortable during a particularly challenging stage of recovery.

Behavioral Therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Contingency Management, and Motivational Interviewing address the root causes of addictive behavior, allowing patients to understand their condition and establish healthy coping mechanisms against their stressors.

Medications may be used during treatment to help the patient reduce their cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

Recovering individuals may also go through support groups and counseling sessions. 12-Step Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), provide peer support and a structured approach to recovery. Group therapy provides a supportive environment where patients can share experiences and learn coping skills.

For individuals with both substance use disorder and mental health issues, dual diagnosis treatment addresses both conditions simultaneously.

Treatment plans should be tailored to the individual and may involve a combination of these approaches. Remember, addiction is a chronic condition, and recovery is a continuous process that requires ongoing effort and commitment. Look for a rehab near you today to learn more about the addiction treatment process.

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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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