Addiction forever changes the lives of those affected by it, and those who witness loved ones experience it. The more we understand why it’s so powerful, where it comes from, and why it affects individuals differently, the better chance we have at fighting it. The scientific study of addictive behavior has led researchers down many pathways. Genetically and neurologically, mice are very similar to humans. For decades, mice have been studied scientifically in labs to find causative relationships for explaining addictive behavior. This article is going to discuss some of the findings to help you better understand the origins and genetic components of addiction.
Genetics and Addiction
In the lab, mice have been bred to have remarkably similar addictive characteristics. They’ve been bred to have unique drug preferences, tolerances, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms. As you might assume, these mice share similar genetics. As a result of these findings, researchers have been looking to genetics as a significant causative component of addiction. These findings aren’t surprising when the family histories of addicts are revealed. Many individuals suffering from addiction can identify family members that have also suffered.
Studies have generated many interesting genetic relationships to addiction. Some prominent genes that have been identified include the A1 allele of the dopamine receptor gene. DRD2 is more common in people addicted to alcohol or cocaine. Mice bred to lack the serotonin receptor gene Htr1b are more attracted to cocaine and alcohol. Alcoholism is rare in individuals with two copies of ALDH 2 gene variation. These are only a few of the variants identified as genetic adaptations that have a causal relationship with addictive behaviors.
PKNOX2 the Addict Gene
One of the latest genetic factors to be identified was announced by the Yale University School of Public Health. A lead scientist found a gene located on chromosome 11 called PKNOX2. The gene was identified as associated with multiple addictive behaviors, such as alcoholism and drug abuse, in white women of European origin. Women with this gene are almost twice as likely as white men, black women, or black men to have two or more addictions.
The Complexity of Addiction Treatment
Just as there have been many genetic variations identified as characteristics of addictive behavior, the treatment of addiction must take into account the variety in individuals for treatment. The challenge to modern science is to expand the knowledge of neurological and genetic factors in addiction and combine it in a useful way with the societal and personality aspects of addiction. The complexity of the individual and the social environment in which they live creates a complex set of factors that science alone has not found a “medical” solution to addiction.
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