Monday, April 30, 2018
Why genetics makes some people more vulnerable to opioid addiction – and protects others
Genetics can influence a person’s risk for heart disease, cancer or diabetes, and it can also make them more or less susceptible to addiction. There has been a lot of research conducted in the last decade that focused on tiny differences in a person’s DNA - termed single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs. SNPs can indicate whether you have a higher or lower risk for addiction. For example, the thing that helps against drug dependence (specifically opioid dependence) is a single building block change in the opioid receptor gene. On the other hand, variations and mutations in genes for three different dopamine receptors have been linked to increased risk for opioid addiction.
It's also your parents and grandparents who influence whether you are more or less susceptible since you are getting your genetics from them. For example, if you have a dopamine receptor SNP that makes you more likely to develop an addiction, there's always the chance that that gene is "read” differently by your body’s cells due to epigenetic changes. If that's the case, then that risk may not impact your life.
Rates of abuse of opioids have gone up over the past 15 years and continue to climb. The continuation of this research could one day help to achieve preventative measures and treatments that not only help those currently struggling with substance abuse but protect future generations.