No one ever talked about or asked about my family history of addiction

Health care providers do not typically ask about family history of addiction, even though they screen for a number of hereditary health conditions.

By Lauren King

Alcohol and drug use was an issue we never talked about in my family. No one talked to me about our history with addiction, which included the fact that both of my parents, and some of my grandparents, suffered from addiction. Everyone just wanted to sweep everything under the rug and put on a happy face.

“Little did I know that I had a genetic predisposition to develop substance use disorder — and indeed, it wasn’t too long before I found myself dealing with addiction.”

The Problem

Genetic factors account for approximately 50-75% of the risk that an individual will develop addiction. Despite the significant risk that genetics play, health care providers do not often screen for a family history of addiction in the same way that they commonly ask about other inherited diseases. As a result, and because of stigma, a history of addiction is often not discussed among families.

The Solution

Health care providers should universally screen for family history of addiction as part of an annual wellness exam and discuss risks associated with family history of addiction. Such screening questions would help normalize conversations between parents and children about increased addiction risk due to family history.

Take Action

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Congress passed the MATE Act!

Send a letter to your members of Congress thanking them for passing the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, which included important addiction-related provisions, including the Medication Access and Training Expansion (MATE) Act. The MATE Act requires health care practitioners, as a condition of receiving or renewing their license to prescribe controlled substances, to receive a one-time, eight-hour training on substance use disorder.