Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Genetics of Addiction

I was curious about how genetic could influence or contribute to drug addiction, so I did some research on this topic. Some people are more vulnerable to drugs and susceptible to drug addiction than others. Everyone could have access to addictive substances, but people who have the opportunity may not always take that risk. Biological differences can make a person more or less vulnerable to addiction. People with certain genes may have a more difficult time quitting when they start than others. When trying to quit, some people may experience severe symptoms of withdrawal than others. However a person's genetic makeup is not the only factor of addiction. Just because a person is susceptible to addiction, does not necessarily mean they will become addicted. Experience and a person's environment can play a large part in addiction. Susceptibility to addiction is the result of the interaction of many genes, not just a single gene. Research on the role of genetics in addiction linked the D2 dopamine receptor(DRD2 gene) to alcoholism. Studies that have been done on the brain showed that those with the A1 allele of the dopamine receptor, DRD2 have fewer dopamine receptors in the pleasure centers of the brain. Those individuals that become addicted to drugs that increase dopamine levels, become addicted easily because of that deficiency. Other studies have also shown that those with the A1 allele of the DRD2 gene are also addicted to cocaine, heroin, amphetamine and nicotine. These studies suggest that those with this genetic trait and more likely to have severe forms of addiction.


  1. Sometimes I feel like genetics is just a way of blaming your addiction on your family. I know it has been proven, but there are so many people who don't have an addiction even though their family did. I think it has to do with will power and having a good head on your shoulders. For example, my mom and aunt grew up with parents who were both addicted to alcohol, nicotine and whatever else. Both my mom and aunt enjoy having a drink every day but never to the extent that they would be addicted. They saw the repercussions of having alcoholics as parents and realized that that is not the way they want to live.

  2. Yes I agree, it shouldn't be used as an excuse for addiction. However, I believe individuals should be aware of their genetic makeup so that they know that they are more susceptible to addiction. This could benefit them because just like your mom and aunt, it may deter them away from drinking excessively because they saw the negative effects of alcoholism directly.