An expert in substance abuse has said that Britney Spears' problems could be linked to her childhood.

Dr Drew Pinsky told US magazine that he was sure the star had sought treatment for drug problems at clinics in the past, adding that childhood troubles would make it harder for her to kick the habit.

The magazine reports the singer had a difficult family life in the past, with relatives being involved in altercations with the law and Spears' grandmother committing suicide. It also claimed the star's relatives had substance abuse issues and mental health concerns.

The pop princess, whose behaviour is being closely monitored during her child custody battle with former husband Kevin Federline, has been described by the judge in the case as a "habitual, frequent and continuous" user of controlled substances and alcohol.

Dr Pinskey told the weekly showbusiness publication genetics may have led to the star's alleged problems with substance abuse.

Speaking about the reasons behind drug abuse, the healthcare professional said: "At least 60 per cent of addiction is accounted for on the basis of genetics. I've never treated an addict that didn't have a family history of the disease. You have to inherit it from somewhere."

"It's how her father treated her, it's the divorce and it's the genetics," Dr Pinsky added, in reference to Spears' circumstances.

The doctor stressed a family history of addiction could result in later generations having the same concerns.

Commenting on Spears' family, Dr Pinsky said: "[S]he has a parent with an addiction. Just by having a parent with addiction puts you at about a 50 per cent risk for having your own addiction problem.

"But, just because you have a genetic heritage doesn't mean you're going to get an addiction. A childhood trauma, physical abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment, will also propel a person towards full-blown addiction," he concluded.

22/11/2007 07:44:54