A Secondary Data Analysis of Empirical Findings on the Influence of Familial and Genetic Factors on the Onset of Drug Abuse
Drug abuse has long been a private and public issue. Numerous strategies, interventions, and policies have been formulated and carried out over the years to resolve this indomitable issue. There is no single explanation to the development of drug dependence. Its onset and maintenance are influenced by a number of interlocking factors. One of the leading determinants of the development of this disorder is familial and genetic factors. Numerous studies have shown that the family environment, such as quality of parental support and parent-child communication, greatly influences the vulnerability of adolescents to drug abuse. The same is true with genetic factors, but this area of research needs further elaboration. This paper uses a secondary data analysis method to examine and review empirical findings that demonstrate how drug abuse is predicted by negative family environment.
Secondary data analysis is a useful methodology in exploring psychological topics, such as the familial and genetic factors that determine the development and continuation of drug abuse. Exploring the influence of the family environment on the onset of drug abuse calls for an analysis and review of previously published empirical findings on the issue. Similar to other research methodologies, secondary data analysis requires a step-by-step approach. The first step is to identify the type of information required to address the specific research question (Andersen et al., 2011). The data sought for this paper are empirical psychological studies that focus on the specific impact of genetics and familial factors on the development of drug dependence. The references are therefore mostly composed of peer-reviewed journal articles from JAMA Psychiatry, Archives of General Psychiatry, PubMed, and PsyInfo. It is imperative to determine the primary research objectives because the topic will identify the types of information needed.
The second step is to identify the preferred target population. For instance, research on perceived parental support among adolescents necessitate a different sample than research of age of the onset of drug dependence or research that centers on drug abuser’s psychological condition. Data that have a specific target population reinforce the reliability of the conclusion (Andersen et al., 2011). For this paper, the target population is adolescents who were exposed to drug dependence within their own family environment. Secondary analysis enables researchers to capitalize on resources and take advantage of existing data. If reliable and valid information is available for an area of research, researchers do not have to replicate attempts by means of primary data gathering. Even though replicating researches over time enhances the findings’ validity, gathering of primary data must take place in view of existing secondary data (Andersen et al., 2011). Hence, since there is an abundance of empirical findings about the familial and genetic factors that influence the development of drug dependence, the researcher decided to adopt secondary data analysis.
Studies show diverse, interrelated determinants of the onset and continuation of drug abuse. Family- and genetic-related factors have been discovered by researchers as one of the major predictors of drug abuse. Some of these identified familial factors are a dysfunctional family environment; excessively tolerant parenting; poor communication between parents and their children; and indifferent and unreliable parenting (Ahlstrom, 2002). There are a number of studies that have examined the correlation between parental drug use and the susceptibility of their children to drug dependence later in life. A large number of studies have explored the correlation between parental and offspring drug dependence. Almost all of these studies found out a correlation between parental drug abuse and their adolescent children’s drug dependence. Rhee and colleagues (2003) revealed that results from a family history research of substance abuse showed that the occurrence of disparities in risk of drug dependence among individuals with a familial history of drug abuse may take place at some point between late adolescence to early adulthood, which could be a crucial phase for the manifestation of drug abuse susceptibility.
The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACA) reported that “alcoholism and other drug addiction tend to run in families; children of addicted parents are more at risk for alcoholism and other drug abuse than are other children” (p. 1). Studies have also revealed that adolescents from single-parent families normally have increased vulnerability to behavioral disorders, such as drug abuse (Antecol, Bedard, & Helland, 2001). The findings of Ahlstrom and colleagues (2002) demonstrate that both adolescents in modernized families and those from single-parent families are more dependent on drugs compared to adolescents in ‘undamaged’ families. Even though the causes of this greater vulnerability to behavioral problems among adolescents living with single parents are still imprecise, several aspects are assumed to have an impact. For instance, according to Antecol and colleagues (2001), single parents usually have inadequate coping mechanisms, are more socially isolated, and financially unstable in comparison to parents in intact, two-parent families.
In addition, poor parental support has been identified to be a greater determinant of drug abuse than is increased peer support. The positive impact of parental support on preventing drug dependence seemed to be greater than the impact of peer support on involvement in substance abuse (Kendler et al., 2014). Kendler and colleagues (2013) reported that the correlation was higher with regard to satisfaction with fatherly support than motherly support. On the other hand, an independent set of studies has demonstrated that inadequate parental support and unhealthy communication between parent and children are often related to higher risk of drug dependence among adolescents (Rhee et al., 2003). For instance, poor communication has been discovered to be related to greater susceptibility to substance use. In contrast, according to Ahlstrom (2002), a research on adolescent behavioral issues among minority groups and parent-child communication was not able to establish communication as a protective factor.
The National Association for Children of Alcoholics also stated that “recent studies suggest a strong genetic component, particularly for early onset of alcoholism in males; sons of alcoholic fathers are at fourfold risk compared with the male offspring of non-alcoholic fathers” (p. 1). The same findings have been reported in drug dependence among adolescents. Abuse of illegal drugs has been studied in twin samples, and a number of researchers currently confirm that drug dependence is also significantly influenced by genetic factors. Conclusive findings indicate that genetic variables affect the risk of drug abuse, with calculated 50 percent and above heritability (Rhee et al., 2003). Furthermore, twin studies suggest that the likelihood of developing drug dependence and behavioral problems is predicted at least partly by familial genetic variables (Dick, 2008). Rhee and colleagues (2003) further explained that these findings show that a fraction of an individual’s vulnerability to drug dependence will be caused by a common externalizing variable and the rest will stem from genetic variables that are specific to drug abuse.
It is crucial to acquire a more accurate and definitive knowledge of the multifaceted ways wherein familial variables influence drug abuse among adolescents, as well as the influence of parents and other member of the immediate family. There is an observable inadequacy in controlled family research aimed at identifying the effect of family environment that are highly relevant for determining patterns of manifestation of drug dependence and co-existing psychiatric problems; for shedding light on the influence of environmental and genetic factors and their interrelatedness; and for verifying the traditional types of hereditary drug dependence (Epps & Wright, 2012). The interplay between family-related and individual risk factors in generating susceptibility to drug dependence also warrants greater attention from researchers. Twin studies are increasingly carried out to prove that genetic factors greatly influence the familial risk factors for drug dependence.
Specific environmental factors could also significantly influence the vulnerability of children to drug abuse. However, it is not reasonable to presume that all children in a given family will be exposed to the same environmental forces, such as their relationship and communication with their relatives and immediate family members. Both non-genetic and genetic familial factors, including specific environmental variables, have been reported to have a significant influence on the onset of drug dependence (Kendler et al., 2014). Environmental determinants have a tendency to intensely influence children with genetic susceptibility. Hence it is crucial to understand the combined influence of genetic and environmental factors in the mechanism of drug dependence.
The genetic model of understanding drug abuse, which places emphasis on the combined outcomes of the roles of individual, genetics, familial, and environmental aspects, offers a useful framework through which to acquire an accurate knowledge of the interplay of factors for drug dependence. Specific research subjects must be investigated, such as distant relatives, which would enable understanding of non-genetic family-related variables that could shed light on causal risk; individuals from migrant communities, which would facilitate knowledge of the influence of cultural variables while controlling family-related and genetic variables; and twins, which would generate understanding of the environment-related aspects of drug dependence (Epps & Wright, 2012). Ultimately, continuous research on sets of twins and adopted family members, especially in research that is intended particularly to demonstrate the processes by which genes wield their effect on drug dependence risk, can also be useful.
Based on the results, one of the leading risk factors for the onset of drug dependence is a family history of substance abuse. Nevertheless, the degree to which the elevated susceptibility is traceable to genetic variables included in the individual, physiological, or metabolic consequences of illicit drugs or to common environmental variables like transmission of psychiatric disorder and dysfunctional family arrangement, must be studied. Basically, there should be further research that can differentiate the influence of social and family-related or genetic factors, and their interplay in the onset of drug dependence. Genetic frameworks like those adopted by Kendler and colleagues (2014) (e.g. high-risk research, migrant studies, twin samples) are specifically useful techniques for pinpointing the particular sources of family-related determinants of drug dependence.
Previously, studies have extensively advocated family-based programs as the preferred treatment for drug dependence among adolescents. Clinical recommendations created by powerful policymakers, national organizations, and federal departments, all emphasize the significance of engaging family members in the administration of interventions for the treatment of drug dependence (Antecol et al., 2001). The most effective treatment interventions are interdisciplinary, offering an integrated treatment plan. Treatment interventions and research for drug dependence and psychological problems have largely continued individually, with negligible focus on the commonalities between them.
Findings from surveys and literature reviews about drug dependents, and from an increasing number of future researches, divulge a connection between symptoms of behavioral and emotional issues starting in childhood and the consequent onset of drug dependence (Rhee et al., 2003). Basically speaking, there should be a multidisciplinary approach to the analysis of the correlation between familial and genetic factors and development of drug dependence among adolescents.
The onset and maintenance of drug dependence is influenced by a variety of risk factors. It could be environmental or social. However, it has been reported that familial and genetic variables play a major role in determining the vulnerability of adolescents to drug abuse. The studies discussed here explained how family history, parental support, parent-child communication, and other family-related factors contribute to the risk of developing the disorder. However, genetic factors require further research in order to fully establish its impact on drug dependence risk. All the same, twin studies and other genetic epidemiological methodologies substantiate the role of genetics in the development of drug dependence.
Continued research on this topic is necessary in order to find or develop effective treatment for drug abuse. An interdisciplinary approach to understanding this issue would be exceptionally useful, especially considering the fact that other factors, like environmental, social, and cultural variables, also influence the development of drug dependence. It is in the best interest of researchers and policymakers to create conditions that would foster greater emphasis on the cause, effect, and treatment of drug dependence.
Ahlstrom, S. (2002). Family practices and adolescent use of legal and illegal drugs: a review. Nordisk Alkohol, 19, 76-82.
Andersen, J., Prause, J., & Silver, R. (2011). A step-by-step guide to using secondary data for psychological research. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 5(1), 56-75.
Antecol, H., Bedard, K., & Helland, E. (2001). Does single parenthood increase the probability of teenage promiscuity, drug use, and crime? Evidence from divorce law changes. Journal of Population Economics, 20(1), 55-71.
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