Genes are responsible for many of our features and health outcomes, including eye and hair color, moles and freckles, height, metabolism, and diabetes risk. Interestingly enough, science has learned that genetics can also play a role in addiction. No there’s not an addiction gene, but there are measurable biological differences that make individuals more likely to be susceptible to addiction. Every individual draws genetic material from many different ancestors, and science is working towards finding the genetic factors that contribute to the puzzle that is addiction.
Substance use disorder is known to run in families. Not only can it be a learned behavior, but it also carries an inherited component. Knowing your family history can give you some insight into what could lie ahead if you pay attention. If a close family member has sought addiction treatment in NorCal, it’s a signal to be extra vigilant in avoiding substance use. Researchers also use family histories, but they combine them with DNA research. By dividing a family into one group of individuals affected by substance abuse and another group of unaffected individuals, a researcher can compare their DNA sequences to isolate chromosome segments that occur more often in the group of those who have struggled with substance abuse.
Addiction isn’t caused by any one specific gene. Addiction is a complex chronic condition that is affected by many factors, environmental and genetic alike. Addiction is often affected by variations in several genes, environmental, and circumstantial factors. Everyone gets a unique blend of gene variations, it’s part of what makes every one a unique individual. It should also be noted that just because someone has gene variations that put them at a higher risk of succumbing to addiction, they’re not guaranteed to have the trait. Pinpointing the precise genetic cause of addiction isn’t so simple. However, from the science that is currently available, researchers have concluded that approximately 40 to 60% of an individual’s risk of addiction is related to their genetic makeup.
Scientists are interested in discovering the genes and gene variations that lead to addiction to curb addiction, giving more power to those who are affected personally. Understanding the relationship between genes and biological differences can result in better and more effective treatments for those struggling with substance abuse. When a gene is identified as a contributing factor to addiction, researchers can focus on it and test for what drugs can modify its activity, correcting signals and re-establishing proper brain function. This is known as gene therapy. There are many ways to combat addiction, and advancements in gene therapy are just one methodology. If you or someone you care about is struggling with addiction, reach out to a treatment center, medical professional, or the SAMHSA helpline.
Your genes influence your risk for addiction, very similarly to the way that different people will respond differently to the same medication. But when you’re aware of your risk factors, you’re in a better position to combat those factors. Get educated on your risk factors and create a realistic plan of action that you can manage.