Some people may have a genetic inclination to drug addiction. Researchers claim that a gene variant that has been characterized as the “pleasure-seeking gene” may be culpable for some people turning to drugs to increase their levels of dopamine which is a neurotransmitter that allows people to feel good. The explanation is persuasive and questionable as it may explain why not all people that take drugs become addictive or indulge in compulsive behaviour. It can also assist in developing effective drug addiction treatments and exploring addiction treatment models. On the other hand, it does not explain there appears to be various forms and levels of addiction. Someone addicted to drugs and alcohol, may not necessarily be addicted to or indulge in other compulsive behaviours such as sex or gambling.
It is hoped that with further understanding of the nature of the gene may lead to more compelling convincing treatment options. In attempting to understand what causes addiction, an important question that is repeatedly being asked is why would talented and auccessfull individuals risk his or her career for the sake of drug-induced good feeling? The answer may not lie in upbringing or company, but may partially or entirely due to their genetic makeup.
The problem now becomes one of identifying the situations where genetics are responsible and developing new treatments surrounding the DNA options.
Studies comparing the lifestyles and habits of twins and adopted children first suggested that addictive behaviour has a hereditary component. The DRD2 or “pleasure seeking” gene and variants or alleles were found to be associated with disorders of “compulsive behavior:” and substance abuse. Studies of brain tissue, done at UCLA showed that individuals with the A1 variant may have significantly fewer dopamine receptors in the pleasure centers of the brain. The findings suggest that addicts use drugs to compensate for the deficiency in the neurological pleasure system. Studies also linked the A1 variation which is found in about 50% of all addicts, to cocaine, amphetamine, heroine and nicotine addiction.
Addiction treatment options
It was discovered in a study of alcoholics, that those with the pleasure seeking gene responded positively to a nonaddictive drug that stimulates the dopamine receptors. The implications are serious and can be the nexus for important debates on clinical treatment and addiction rehab for the millions of drug-users who may be genetically pre-disposed. In this light, addiction is viewed as a disease, such as diabetes, or arthritis and should be treatment for addiction should be tailored for the cause.
With scientific advances such as the cheek cell DNA test, it may be simple to indicate and differentiate hard-core genetic addicts from those who develop bad habits. Drug abusers with the genetic predisposotion toward addiction, typically require one of a growing number of innovative prescription drug therapies to beat their habit. Those without the gene may respond better to counseling.
The more that is understood about what causes addiction, the more successful we can become in mitigating the heavy toll that drugs addiction has on individuals,families and society.