Sunday, May 1, 2016

Who Gets Hooked On Drugs?

A rat study done at the University of Michigan found genetic markers that influence addiction. 

People may ask why some people get addicted to cocaine after one try, while others will try it and be able to leave it alone. You may ask why some people are able to stay clean after rehab while others relapse. These questions may have a lot to do with the genetic factors that vary from person to person. Of course, we know that animal factors cannot explain all of the factors that lead to differences in addictions in human bodies, but the findings revealed information about the roles played by both inherited traits and addiction related changes in the brain.

The researches looked in rats' brains for the genetic instructions needed to make a key "pleasure receptor" called D2. It allows brain cells to receive signals sent by the brain chemical dopamine, or cocaine. They found that more addiction-prone rats had lower levels of D2 instructions to begin with when compared to the other rats, in an area of the brain known to play a major role in addiction.


The addiction-prone rats also were more likely to carry a specific mark on their DNA called an epigenetic tag. This tag called H3K9me3 kept their brain cells from reading the gene for D2 receptors, but after they became hooked on cocaine, the addiction-prone rats had the same levels of D2 as the less addiction-prone ones. When the cocaine was taken away for a while these rats were more likely to relapse to addictive behavior if they had started out with the epigenetic tag that kept their cells from reading the D2 gene.



I have always asked the question why people get addicted to drugs and others do not, but I have never thought it was a genetic factor in the brain. I always thought it was how you were raised or what influences from your environment affected you. I never thought to assume it was a genetic issue.

8 comments:

  1. Having known a few addicts it would be nice for other people to know that addiction has some to do with genetics.

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  2. I would like to see this area of study evolve to the point where it is able to give us an estimated ratio of how much is based on genetic and how much is based on environment. I do not think in any case of addiction one is more important than the other but it would give us valuable psychological insight into how to treat addiction. I believe that statistics have shown that environment has an enormous impact on addiction, I am interested in how genetic predispositions compare to that quantitatively.

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  3. When it comes to predisposition to addiction, the literature thus far backs up the theory that the individual proportions of nature vs nurture comes into play. The easiest way to think of it is as a glass of water. Each person is born with a certain amount of water in their cup (nature), and that amount cannot be changed. However, as a person goes through life and different things happen to them, more water gets added to their cup (nurture). Once that cup overflows, the person exhibits that behavior (mental illness, addiction, ect). So even if researchers are finding "addiction" genes, just because someone has one, does not mean they are destined for a life of on Skid Row.

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  4. I always believed that addiction was a fault of genetic factors. Not necessarily drug addiction but alcohol addiction and cigarette addiction as well. To me it was almost a predisposition to addiction was the genetic case. If you tried something addictive and addiction ran in your family history you were at a higher risk. However, coming from a family addicted to something like cigarettes I can thankfully say I never became victim of any addiction, so to me it would not be solely genetically based. I think environment and personal experience plays a large role as well.

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  5. This is an amazing post! Would love to find out more. I knew it had something to do with genetic factors due to alcoholism and drug issues within families. However, knowing my familial struggle with alcohol I tend to monitor my consumption more closely knowing how pertinent of an issue it has been leading me to squash any addictive tendencies before they begin. If more people knew that addictive tendencies were an issue in their families instead of people covering that up and not spreading the awareness, people would be able to more consciously avoid putting themselves in a situation when addiction could occur. If you know drugs are an issue in your family maybe you will be less likely to try drugs. Just a thought

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  6. I always said that having a addiction is the person's own fault for not having will power. I never once thought to ever think it had something to do with genetics. I now have a better understanding for people having issues with addiction.

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  7. This is an important article for me as I am close with a few addicts. Unfortunately, some could never get right regardless of getting help and others were able to get their life back on track.

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  8. This has been something that I've thoroughly discussed in my psych classes. Addiction is a biological thing and of course some environmental. However some people are more genetically predisposed to have addictive tendencies. This can be applied to alcoholism, drug abuse, and gambling. People frown upon drug users and their parents, but most of the time it is a lot deeper than just how you were raised.

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