Addiction

7 Apr 2021 admin

IS DRUG ADDICTION GENETIC?

Have you ever wondered why some people get addicted to substances while others don’t? Over the years, different research and studies have been carried out to identify factors that make a person susceptible to addiction to a substance. Drug addiction, also called substance use disorder, is a disease that affects the brain, resulting from a history of substance abuse. People with substance abuse disorders have a compulsive desire to use legal or illegal substances despite the adverse effect on their health. Some of the commonly abused drugs include opioids, alcohol, cannabis, heroin, and cocaine. As with other diseases, drug addiction affects the normal functioning of the human body and may result in death if left untreated. The journey to drug addiction is a complex one that occurs in different stages, with addiction being the final stage—many people with substance use disorders started by either abusing medication or abusing illicit drugs for recreational purposes. Continuous abuse of these substances can lead to dependency, which, if left untreated, will lead to an addiction where the person loses their will to stop using the drug even if it’s causing harm to their body. Years of research into this disease have shown that genetic and environmental factors may be responsible for a person’s susceptibility to drug addiction. Environmental factors are often more associated with the initial use of these addictive drugs, while subsequent use and eventual addiction may be tied to genetics and hereditary factors. Examples of environmental factors that may predispose a person to addictive substances can include living close to a site of social substance abuse, peer influence, family conflict, and sometimes, poverty. Most people begin abusing drugs as adolescents, which often then grows into dependency as young adults.

 is drug addiction genetic?


Genetic Factors in Addiction

Genes are functional units of DNA that make up the human genome responsible for directing the body’s cellular activities. A change in the genetic component of a person can predispose the person to disorders or cause diseases. In the study of drug abuse, genetics has also been linked with the increased risk of addictions in drug users. Scientists estimate that genetic factors are responsible for 40 to 60 percent of a person’s vulnerability to addiction. While there has been no single genetic trait to determine vulnerability to addiction, like with other diseases, genetic components may make it easier or harder for people to grow addictions. Understanding these components will help discover newer treatment methods that can be personalized to individual patients, thereby improving their recovery rates. Scientists have carried out different studies to show the relationship between genetic factors and the risk of developing alcohol, nicotine, and hard drug use disorders. A particular study revealed that the risk for cannabis use disorder has a strong genetic component. Findings showed a genetic locus on chromosome 8 that regulates the expression of the CHRNA2 gene in the brain. People with cannabis use disorder were found to have a low expression of the CHRNA2 gene in the cerebellum, even when diagnosed at a younger age. Also, they discovered that genetic factors associated with educational attainment were protective against the disorder.

Heritability of Drug and Substance Addiction

Heritability refers to the tendency of a disorder or disease to run in the family. The heritability of addictions ranges from moderate to high. This suggests that a person’s vulnerability to addiction is dependent on the number of vulnerability genes they inherited. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all the people who carry these genes will eventually become addicted to substances. A study carried out on twins, family, and adoption showed that the heritability of addictions ranged depending on the degree of genetic relationship to an addictive relative. For instance, identical twins who share the same genetic makeup are more likely to both develop addictions if they carry genes that make them vulnerable to addictions, and one of them develops an addiction.

Epigenetic Changes and Addictions

Epigenetic changes refer to functional and inherited changes in how genes are expressed that are not dependent on gene sequence or changes in genetic material. Some environmental factors like stress or certain lifestyle changes can cause epigenetic changes that may predispose a person to develop an addiction. So, even though the person’s genetic information remains the same, the expression of the genetic material may be altered. Some of these alterations can also be passed on to children, making them vulnerable to addictions.

How to Prevent Drug Addiction

If one or more of your family members struggles with drug addiction, you may be worried about your risk of developing a drug addiction. The good news is that, even though you carry the genetic traits that make you vulnerable to addiction, you may never get affected by them. Beyond genetic factors, social and environmental factors also play a role in increasing your risk of developing an addiction. The neighborhood you reside in, the company you keep, and how you manage stressful situations can also influence your susceptibility to developing an addiction. Environmental factors are usually the initial triggers for drug abuse, so the best way to prevent addiction is to avoid triggering environmental factors. This is especially important if you are raising children. You should ensure they grow up in a stable environment and keep them away from neighborhoods that encourage drug abuse. If you are on medication, it is advisable to get either in-patient care or prescriptions in limited amounts to prevent addiction to prescription drugs. Do You Need Help With Drug Abuse? Do you currently struggle with drug abuse or addiction? You can get help and gain back control of your life. Book a virtual consultation with a licensed physician to begin treatment by visiting www.mapleaddictioncentres.ca