Knowledge Aids Prevention for Adopted Youth

Drug abuse risks amongst adopted increase with genetic ties

(RxWiki News) If you’re considering adoption or have already adopted, understanding the family history of a child can help predict and possibly prevent psychological struggles.

A new article written by Virginia Commonwealth University researchers explains that genetic ties to substance abuse can be found in adoption cases, and adopted kids whose biological parents struggle with drug abuse demonstrated double the risk of developing the same issues as adopted children whose birth parents did not struggle with addiction.

"Be aware that adopted children may have family histories of disease."

Lead author Kenneth Kendler, M.D., and colleagues explain, “Risk for drug abuse in adopted children is increased by a history in biological parents and siblings not only of drug abuse but also of alcoholism, major psychiatric illness and criminal convictions,” and that’s not all. As in most other cases, nature verse nurture comes into play, and environmental influences also affect odds of developing substance issues.

“Risk for drug abuse in adopted children is increased by disruption in the adoptive parent-adopted child bond by death or divorce but also by a range of indices of a disturbed adoptive home environment and deviant peer influences such as parental alcoholism and sibling drug abuse, respectively,” authors write.

While the genetic influences predispose kids, their work suggests surrounding a child with the right environment—one free of drugs and alcohol—can lessen the chance that he or she will develop issues with substance abuse themselves.

National registries, healthcare databases, and legal records were used to compile information, and their study analyzed data from 18,115 adopted Swedish children born between 1950 and 1993. Information from both biological and adoptive parents and relatives was sought through as well.

While adopted children’s prevalence for drug abuse was already higher (4.5 percent compared to 2.9 percent in all of Sweden), those whose biological parents struggled with drugs was almost three times the national Swedish average (8.6 percent).

The authors of the study believe the key to preventing drug abuse amongst this population lies in controlling for environmental risk factors. If you know your son or daughter’s biological parents abused drugs, talk to a healthcare professional about further preventative measures.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse funded this study alongside the Swedish Research Council. Published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, no conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
March 2, 2012