Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Adoptees & Drug Abuse Risk

A while back I posted a study that showed both environment and genetics played a role in adoptees' risk of suicide.  So I was really interested when I saw this headline at CNN,  Adopted kids' drug abuse risk affected by biological family, especially since it suggested that genetics was a sole factor. But if you get past the headline and the first paragraph, you learn that there's also an environmental influence:
Adopted children are twice as likely to abuse drugs if their biological parents did too, suggesting that genetics do indeed play a role in the development of substance abuse problems.

However, trouble or substance abuse in the adoptive family is also a risk factor, according to a study of more than 18,000 adopted children in Sweden.

This suggests that both environment and biological family history can influence a child's likelihood of future drug use.
They managed to bury the actual results there, huh?  Still, the article notes that this is "good news" for adoptive parents, since it suggests that tainted genes can be "cured" by a good environment.  Sheesh.

There's more detail about the study at the MedicalNews website, but there are really two versions -- one headlined Dysfunctional family environment increases genetic risk for drug abuse and one headlined Study evaluates link between genetic and environmental factors and risk of drug abuse

Looks like CNN used the second version, which blames biology in the first paragraph:
In a national Swedish adoption study, the risk for drug abuse appears to be increased among adopted children whose biological parents had a history of drug abuse, according to a report published Online First by Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
 rather than the first version, headlining dysfunctional families, which blames environment:
The risk of abusing drugs is greater - even for adopted children - if the family environment in which they are raised is dysfunctional, according to a new study conducted by a collaborative team from Virginia Commonwealth University and Lund University in Sweden.
So, take your pick -- blame the birth parents or blame the adoptive parents! Or recognize that biology and environment are both influential. . . .


SustainableFamilies said...

Well really, if you add in epigenetics this says nothing. Epigenetic factors are environmentally induced alterations to biologicay functioning that can affect the fetus and gene functioning patterns in development.

Meaning if the biological mother goes through trauma that alters her biology and increases her risk of drug use, those changes in her body can affect the fetus and later adult life. I've only been reading about this for years and I'm so ready for the general public to catch up.

SustainableFamilies said...

And also I wish educated people doing research would catch up. Catch up yo! Inheretance isn't just about genotype ya guppies.

c said...

If we adoptees turn out well, it is apparently due to our great upbringing.

When we turn out not so well, it is apparently due to our genes.

See, there are some advantages to being an AP lol.

(just teasing :))

Amanda said...

Interesting observations. SustainableFamilies has a point about how significant traumas and experiences impact the genes and subsequent offspring.

One thing I would also point out is that one can't always determine in any given person if drug abuse in an adoptee who does not have drug abuse in the adoptive environment has had a previous nurturing environment with someone who abuses drugs: their biological mother whom they spent 9 months with. I think people need to recognize that the first mother is also the first nurturer. Issues stemming from drug abuse in the biological family are not necessarily genetic. (I wanted to point that out because people often automatically assume adoptees are genetically flawed).

But reports like this I think wrongly convince people not to adopt foste kids with parental drug abuse history. They also unnecessarily paint biological parents negatively as a whole and blame adoptive parents for things that may not even be their fault.

Tina said...

Do we seriously need more studies to show that both a person's genetic heritage, and their environment (before and after birth) both impact them? Really?

Kiara said...

The cause of an adoptees' drug addiction can be due to numerous factors, including psychological, biological, and social aspects. As mentioned, recent headline news considers genetics as a major cause of the issue, which is an observation based on facts. While this is accurate, there are other factors which lead to drug abuse as well, including an adoptee's tendency to adapt to his environment and ability to control his negative emotions.

Kiara Somers