The Role of Genes in Addiction Development

Addiction Definition

Healthcare professionals define addiction as a complex chronic disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking.  Addicted individuals continue taking substances despite harmful consequences that are caused by drugs. It’s important to note that addiction leads to long-lasting changes in the brain, so it is viewed both as a brain disorder and a mental illness caused by repeated misuse of substances.

What Do We Know About the Reasons of Addiction?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, addiction is a multifactorial and polygenic disease.

Scientists cannot define the single factor, which has the most significant impact on the development of the disease. However, recent medical studies shed light on the nature of addiction. The researchers have discovered that people, whose parents suffered from different types of dependence, are more likely to get  addicted. Although the effect of genetic factors on different types of addiction has been revealed, there is still a lack of research in this area (Torchalla, Strehlau, Li & Krausz, 2011).

For instance, the scientists question whether there are significant differences between genes in drug and alcohol addicted people. Furthermore, the researchers still do not know to what extent these genes might increase the risk of disease among the patients. That is why it is necessary to conduct a study in this field to gather more information on the problem and discover whether genetic impact may promote the development of the disorder (Fillmore, Leino & Johnstone, 2005).

Genetics and Addiction: D2 Subtype Gene

Exploring the relationship between genetics and addiction helps to better understand the nature of substance abuse. Nowadays a lot of researchers work on the revealing of biological differences that make people more or less vulnerable to addiction development. It has been discovered that there is not one gene that may lead to substance abuse, but many combinations of genes and markers that make a person more predisposed to addiction than others.

For example, D2 subtype gene  is one of the most well researched genes that influences addiction vulnerability. This gene responds to dopamine that is released in brain after taking drugs. People who do not have D2 subtype gene have stronger cravings for alcohol and consume it in larger amounts compared to those who do have the gene. It happens because individuals who lack the D2 gene feel less effect of dopamine than those who have the gene, so  they tend to drink more to get the same feelings.

Still the further research is needed to get more information about isolated gene impact on predisposition towards addiction. As everybody is absolutely unique, it is important to learn which, if any, genes contribute to any particular addiction. Of course, the only genetic test cannot rule out the potential dangers of taking substances. But still, studying genes can help to understand why one’s body react this or that way to substance use and who is at a higher risk of addiction.

Inheriting Addiction vs. Susceptibility

There is no exact mark in someone’s genetic fingerprint that will lead to substance abuse issues in future. No one can be born with an addiction. However, it’s fair to say that addiction is definitely influenced by genes. And it really makes difference. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism argues that genetics accounts only for nearly 50 percent of the chance of alcoholism.

The scientists state that people do not inherit addictions, but susceptibility to them. It can be that an individual with substance dependent parents may not have problems with drug or alcohol abuse. Similarly, one who does not have genetic predisposition towards addiction can develop it and thus change genetic expression over some time.

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