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Alcohol and Drug Use could be Inheritable, Study Reports

Update Date: Mar 20, 2014 02:43 PM EDT

Children often pick up good and bad habits and behaviors from their parents or guardians. According to a new study, children who have parents who use alcohol, marijuana and other drugs have a greater chance of using these substances as well. The study, out of Sam Houston State University, suggests that parents should be extra careful about what they do so that their children do not pick up on these potentially dangerous habits.

"The study is rare in that it assesses the extent to which parent's substance use predicts use by their children within age-equivalent and developmentally-specific stages of the life course," said Dr. Kelly Knight of the College Criminal Justice's Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology.

Knight added, according to Medical Xpress, "If a parent uses drugs, will their children grow up and use drugs? When did the parent use and when did their children use? There appears to be an intergenerational relationship. The effect is not as strong as one might believe from popular discourse, but when you measure it by developmental stage, it can provide important information on its impact in adolescence and early adulthood, specifically."

In this study, the researchers monitored families for 27 years. The data were collected over three generations as a part of the National Youth Survey Family Study. There were 655 parents and 1,227 children involved from 1988 through to 2004. The researchers focused on parental substance use and tracked when usage increased or decreased over time.

The researchers discovered that substance use did influence children's likelihood of using drugs and drinking alcohol. Specifically for alcohol, children who had parents that drank alcohol were five times more likely to drink as well in comparison to children who had parents that did not drink. In terms of marijuana use, children were twice as likely to smoke marijuana if their parents did. Children of parents who used other drugs were also two times more likely to use those drugs when compared to children of parents who did not.

The researchers also discovered that marijuana and drug use tended to decline right before or at 24-years-old. Alcohol use, however, remained relatively steady throughout one's lifetime.

The study, "Intergenerational Continuity of Substance Use," can be assessed here.

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