Can Addiction Be Genetic? - Exploring the Role of Genetics in Substance Abuse

Because not all smokers are created equal, it is possible to analyze genetic factors to determine the best way to quit smoking. The genetically determined rate at which the body can metabolize nicotine, for example, makes a difference in whether a nicotine patch or nicotine nasal spray will work better in the long run. Some diseases, such as sickle cell disease or cystic fibrosis, are caused by a change, known as a mutation, in a single gene. Some mutations, such as BRCA 1 and 2 mutations that are linked to a much higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer, have become essential medical tools for assessing a patient's risk of serious diseases. Medical researchers have had surprising success in unraveling the genetics of these single-gene disorders, although finding treatments or cures hasn't been so simple.

Most diseases, including addiction, are complex and variations in many different genes contribute to a person's overall level of risk or protection. The good news is that scientists are actively looking for many more avenues for the treatment and prevention of these complex diseases. Alcohol and drug addiction affects the whole family. It is important to understand how substance abuse treatment works, how family interventions can be a first step to recovery, and how to help children from families affected by alcohol and drug abuse. Each person inherits a unique combination of genetic variations.

People with substance use disorder may have different underlying genetic causes. And people who share certain high-risk genetic variations may or may not have the trait. Yes, there may be a genetic predisposition to substance abuse. In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) states that “at least half of a person's susceptibility to drug or alcohol addiction may be related to genetic factors”. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is currently supporting a major research effort to identify genetic variations that make a person vulnerable to drug addiction.

This effort involves studying DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which directs the development of each human cell. By mapping DNA sequences in drug addicts, scientists have been able to isolate gene sequences that indicate an increased risk of becoming addicted to drugs. These gene sequences contain instructions for producing specific proteins, which perform most of the body's vital functions. How these proteins work or don't work may indicate how vulnerable a person is to drug addiction. Hereditary and genetic factors account for 50-75% of the causes of substance abuse and addiction. If a person has certain genes or hereditary influences, they are more likely to show addictive behaviors.

The personality disorder most commonly associated with addiction is antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), which involves dishonest, manipulative, callous and criminal behavior. These characteristics make up the stereotype of someone with an addiction. The Genetics, Epigenetics and Developmental Neuroscience Branch of DNB supports research on genetics, epigenetics and the developmental mechanisms underlying substance use, abuse and addiction. Other ways to prevent addiction include keeping track of your mental health, practicing self-care, and staying physically active. Scientists have searched for decades for an 'addictive personality' that leaves someone vulnerable to drug problems, but without success. Genes also account for 60 percent of the tendency to become addicted and 54 percent of the ability to quit smoking.

This means that programs must be tailored to individual needs, not based on the idea that all people with addictions are equal. While the impact of stress on addiction has been extensively studied in the scientific literature, it is not understood by the general public. To learn more about how animal models, such as mice and fruit flies, have taught us so much about addiction, visit Animal Models for Addiction Research. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) reinforces that addiction is a brain disease. This suggests that the stereotype of addictive personality characterizes very poorly many people who have a substance use disorder and that the genetic risk associated with ASPD does not explain most addictions. While the environment in which a person grows up, along with a person's behavior, influences whether they become addicted to drugs, genetics also play a key role. For example, Volkow explained that the number of a certain type of dopamine receptor, known as D2, could one day be used to predict if someone will become addicted to alcohol, cocaine and heroin. If you have knowledge about the causes and signs of substance abuse, you will be more prepared to notice addictive behaviors in yourself.

Identifying addiction as a brain disease is also the perspective of medical experts from the American Medical Association (AMA), the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

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