When a family member becomes addicted to alcohol or drugs, everyone suffers. Relatives of the addicted person try to solve the problem on their own: persuasion, requests, a compulsion to treatment or manipulation. When none of this works out, they usually give up.

Many people are aware of Alcoholics Anonymous groups or AddictionResource drug information hotlines and try to use them, helping their relatives fight the addiction. However, they also need help. People who have addicted family members suffer as well. 

Moreover, a recent study by Le Qiumin approves, there is a possibility to inherit a susceptibility to drugs if there are addicted members in your family. 

A study

Experiments on rats showed that the propensity to use drugs could be transmitted from father to son due to the fact that drugs change the structure of the protein “packaging” of parents’ DNA. The genetic material of humans and all other living things with a separate cell nucleus is packed into special histone proteins that hold coagulated DNA in place and affect the “readability” of individual genes. In recent years, genetics are finding more and more hints that the “packaging” of DNA is involved in the transmission of information between generations and allows animals and plants to adapt to new environmental conditions quickly. 

Le Qiumin from Fudan University in Shanghai, China and his colleagues discovered yet another unusual connection between epigenetics and human or animal behavior. They observed the different kinds of behavior of cub rats treated with cocaine for a long time before reproduction. 

According to scientists, only the father took drugs in the “family” of rodents – the mother never took cocaine. It excluded the possibility of addiction development in her cubs during intrauterine development due to the penetration of drug molecules into the fetus. Scientists grew rats’ offspring and connected them to the same cocaine “dropper” like their fathers. Then, they allowed rats to independently press a button that introduced a dose of the drug into their body. By observing their behavior and the actions of the rodents offspring from the control group, scientists tried to understand whether drug use by their father influenced their propensity to use cocaine.

It turned out this is indeed so – the pups’ addiction to cocaine developed faster, and their brain reacted much faster to the drug than other cubs. For example, a week after the experiment started, they were about 1.5 times more likely to press the button and behave more actively in the presence of the drug than their relatives. 

A similar reaction was also for the next generation of rat pups, even if their parents had never used cocaine. All this suggests that rats inherited increased vulnerability to the effects of drugs, and these changes can be transmitted from father to his children.

After analyzing the differences in the functioning of their brain and other parts of the body, scientists came to the conclusion that a similar inheritance of predisposition to drug use was associated with changes in the structure of the protein “packaging” of their DNA that occurred in their father’s body.

Qiumin and his colleagues recorded thousands of changes in the structure of those proteins during the development of addiction in the first generation of rodents. About half of these changes are preserved in the DNA of their children and grandchildren.

If something similar is also characteristic for human beings, then, according to scientists, it explains why alcoholism and drug addiction can be hereditary. It is possible that restoring the normal structure of epigenetic tags even during fetal development can help children of former alcoholics and drug addicts avoid repeating the fate of their fathers and mothers.

Addiction helpline

Treatment is always a challenge both for an addictive person and for his relatives. Before starting treatment at a rehabilitation center, everybody can call 24 hour addiction helpline, which is usually toll-free. The drug and alcohol hotlines usually provide full information about substance abuse, all possible ways of treatment, and best rehabs. 

Also, if you are afraid of high risk of becoming addicted because a member of your family had such a problem, you can find an addiction hotline number and talk about your own worries. 

All the calls are 100 percent confidential. You have no need to provide any personal information. Here are some questions a helpline representative may ask you:

  • What specific substances do you or your relative use?
  • How long and frequently does one of you use?
  • Are you or your relative ready to start a treatment program?

Here’s a guideline to calling and addiction helpline:

  1. Look for the appropriate number. Certain hotline numbers may deal with specific types of abuse. 
  2. Prepare the questions. You can feel overwhelming while talking to a representative, so it’s better to be ready. The list won’t let you forget about anything important. 
  3. Most probably, when you call the number, you can hear an automated greeting. So you need to select a language and wait a little. 
  4. Answer all the questions honestly – anyway, you call will be confidential. Speak clearly and pay attention to everything a representative tells you. It is also important to make notes during the conversation. 

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 830 other subscribers.

Follow us on Twitter