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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Genetic Link to Addiction Can Spur Early Drinking - Talk, Listen, Learn

Kids who drink before the age of 14 are 5 times more likely than those who don't, to have problems with alcohol later on. Why? Mostly it's genetics. If members of your immediate family have had problems with alcohol, chances are your kids may too. The younger you tell them, the better off you are.

When I was researching my new book Delaying that First Drink: A Parents' Guide, I met a number of alcoholics who had started drinking young. The most disturbing was a boy who began drinking at the age of nine - no he didn't raid his parents liquor cabinet. He went to the kitchen cabinet and drank the lemon extract, then vanilla and it goes on. He said it made him feel better. At the age of 28, he is a recovering alcoholic.

A young woman I interviewed who is in her early thirties now, said both her parents had drug and alcohol problems. Her earliest memory was her mother lighting a joint in the bedroom when she was three. By high school, Kat was drinking and taking ecstasy, spending her high school tuition money on both and falling apart.

What woke her up? She went home to visit her mother and the house was filled with vermin, filth and it made her sick. Her mother, who was nurse, had lost her job for forging prescription drugs and went home to do them full time.

Kat went to AA and is now sober - her mother died of ovarian cancer while she was in recovery.

Another woman went to her first high school party, drank half a bottle of gin, and was sexually assaulted. She had a long history of alcoholism in her family, and no one ever told her.

What's my point? If there is a genetic predisposition towards alcohol in your family history talk to your kids early and often. Don't scare them but let them know that grandfather had a big problem and how it affected his life.

Let your kids know that if they ever feel alone or scared or anything else they can come to you.

Continue the conversation as they grow. And hopefully, they will come to you. Just keep reminding them they can.

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