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Genetics and Addiction

Recent studies about addiction and addictive behaviors have shown what many have believed over the years — that there may well be a genetic predisposition to addiction. To this point, the difficulty in determining whether there is an addictive gene lies in each addict’s varying exposure to environmental factors that promote drug addiction. As a result, separating environmental causes from a genetic predisposition for addiction has been difficult. However, the medical community now believes that a combination of genetics and environment is the basis of many addictions. Studies have shown that the child of an addict is four times more likely to be an addict themselves, although they are not necessarily doomed to addiction. It is estimated that up to 60% of alcoholics had some form of family history of alcoholism.

In past, addiction was seen as a choice, and to some degree it is – we are all responsible for our actions. However, with this more recent research, it is shown that genetic disposition — something that none of us can alter, plays a role. Further, genetics may make it more difficult for an addict to quit or can make withdrawal symptoms more severe. This link to genetics will allow the medical community and treatment industry to employ novel techniques to minimize the possibility of addiction or relapse in predisposed addicts. Further, personalized care and gene therapy will likely be developed, targeting the responsible genes on a case-by-case basis. This is yet another example of the dynamic and fluid industry in which we work.