Substance Use Disorders and Adoption

substance use disorders and adoptionWhen kids are adopted, it can be a life-changing event. Children who are born into unsafe environments or whose parents cannot or choose not to take care of them properly can benefit tremendously from being adopted into a caring, loving family. Being adopted, though, can also mean that the child experiences an underlying struggle between logic and emotion. Research has found a link between substance use disorders and adoption that is connected to that struggle.

Increase in Adoptions

Researchers at Pew state that a record number of children in foster care are being adopted. In 2018, more than 63,000 kids were adopted from foster care, an increase of nearly a quarter from four years earlier. The percentage of children leaving foster care for adoption has increased from 21% in 2014 to more than 25% in 2018. A total of 135,000 children are adopted each year and there are currently 1.5 million adopted children in the US today. The increase in adoptions is good news in that these children are in more stable homes, but the increase is also in part a reflection of the devastating effects of the opioid crisis in this country.

Substance Use Disorders

Research has found a connection between substance use disorders and adoption, in that adoptees have a higher rate of substance use disorders than non-adoptees. The studies demonstrated an increased risk of lifetime substance use disorders in adopted adults. The odds ratios were found to be high for both abuse and dependence, of both alcohol and drugs.

In a separate study conducted in Sweden, researchers found that 4.5 percent of adopted individuals had problems with drug abuse, compared with 2.9 percent of the general population. Adoptees who had at least one biological parent who abused drugs had drug abuse problems at more than twice the percentage, 8.6 percent, of people whose biological parents did not have drug abuse issues, 4.2 percent.

Contributing Factors

Genetics and environment have been found to be contributing factors in the connection between substance use disorders and adoption as well. Genetic risk factors include alcoholic and psychiatric disorders in biological parents. Children who experienced fetal alcohol effects, alcoholic adoptive parents, and multiple pre-adoption placements were also more prone to substance use disorders. Psychological factors unique to adopted children also contribute to the increased rate of substance use disorders.

Adoption Trauma

One of the underlying causes of substance use disorders is unresolved adoption trauma, rooted in the shock and pain of being permanently separated from a person’s biological family. The birth parents as well as the child being adopted can suffer from adoption trauma. The level of mental and emotional challenges can depend on the child’s age and maturity level when adopted. Unresolved emotional pain arising from the separation can lead to an increased use of drugs or alcohol as unhealthy coping mechanisms in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms.

Awareness and Treatment

Understanding the underlying causes can help the adopted person become more aware of the potential for substance use disorders as well as prevention and treatment options. Recognizing early signs and symptoms and taking steps to get help can reduce the damage and increase the chance of recovery among adoptees who are experiencing an addition to drugs or alcohol.

Resources that can help the healing process include the adoption-related treatment program at PACE Recovery. Therapy can alleviate the adoption trauma and treat the underlying issues that contribute to substance abuse. Treatment options can include Gestalt therapy, attachment-focused therapy, and emotion-focused therapy. Social skills training and specialized support groups can also benefit the adoptee significantly.

People who are adopted may feel rejected by their biological family or pained by their own history. Treatment focused on support, education, and advocacy can help them work through their vulnerability and fear, facilitating healing and healthy discussions about their adoption. Treatment for substance use disorders for adoptees must first address their insecurities and inconsistent attachment styles.

Gender-Specific Addiction Recovery Center

The professionals at PACE Recovery Center understand that the struggles you may encounter as an adoptee can manifest as anxiety, depression, and unhealthy coping mechanisms, including anger and substance abuse. Please contact PACE Recovery Center if you have been adopted or an adoptive parent and struggle with alcohol, drugs, and mental illness. Our gender-specific, evidence-based addiction recovery center for men will help you begin the healing process and begin a remarkable journey. Our highly skilled team is adhering to COVID-19 guidelines to ensure you remain safe. You can reach us today at 800-526-1851.

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