Imagine adopting a child and raising him in a loving, caring, and drug-free environment only to find out that despite all your efforts, he will use drugs because of his genetic make-up. A recent study from Sweden found adopted children had roughly double the risk of drug abuse if their biological full- or half-sibling had similar issues. The study focused on 18,000 children born between 1950 and 1993 who were later adopted. The study did not focus on what age the child was when adopted, and Dr. Lisa Albers, director of the Adoption Program at Children's Hospital Boston said, "Children who are adopted at age 5 are in a different risk category from newborns." She also believes that if genetics do play a role in substance abuse that a supportive adoptive family could be a very good thing at any age.
Fortunately, the study noted that both environment and biological family history can influence a child's likelihood of future drug use. Therefore, even if a child has a genetic connection to drug abuse, there is still hope. Experts believe that both adoptive parents and biological parents can lower the risk of their children becoming addicted to drugs. ADHD, impulse control challenges, and mental health concerns like anxiety are all risk factors that parents should be aware of that could lead to drug abuse in children. Dr. Albers believes, "Joining an adoptive family that is supportive even if you're genetically at high risk is a very positive thing."
The Partnership for a Drug-free America provides information and resources for parents to help prevent their children from becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. Some websites and blogs are run by parents who have had a child with a drug problem, and they offer advice on how other parents can avoid the nightmare. The Internet is full of resources to help all parents provide an environment that will hopefully reduce drug addiction. Hopefully, this research will continue to help adoptive parents be aware of the genetic factors that could increase their child's drug addiction risk and encourage them to use the resources that are available.