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Addiction "Largly Determined by Our Genes"

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  • Addiction "Largly Determined by Our Genes"

    Some chemical assistance is needed to assist with withdraw persistence (Fla1) -

    Addiction ‘largely determined by our genes’

    Embargoed until Friday, July 04, 2008
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    The mystery of why one person becomes hooked on alcohol, heroin, sex or gambling, and another remains free of addiction, lies deep in the brain and is largely determined by our genes.

    Professor Wim van den Brink, from the Academic Medical Centre at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands and a leading expert in the field of addiction, told the Annual Meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists today (Friday 4 July) that addicts have fewer dopamine or pleasure receptors in the brain and consequently seek out more and more stimulation.

    “Addicts find it difficult to receive pleasure,” said Prof van den Brink. “They are not likely to enjoy most of the ordinary things most of us enjoy, experiences such as a day at the beach or night at a club. They are looking for more and more stimulus.”

    However, Professor van den Brink stated that a person’s genetic vulnerability to addiction does not automatically translated into real alcohol and drug disease – there are also environmental influences.

    He said: “You might start off smoking or taking cocaine, and that first introduction is very much determined by your environment. But to stick with it and become dependent on it is genetically determined.”

    Ironically, if someone continues to take their substance of choice, the number of dopamine receptors drop even more. “In this way addicts become even more interested in drugs and drug-using friends,” said Prof van den Brink.

    The emotional memory of the ‘wonderful experience and the drive to repeat it leads to craving and relapse, said Prof van den Brink. Moreover, addicts fail to understand, or register, the conflict between the short-term pleasure the substance gives them and the damage long-term addiction can do.

  • #2
    Re: Addiction &quot;Largly Determined by Our Genes&quot;

    While we ALL carry genes that determine our mental health status, the trait of addiction tendency is <i> epigenetic</i> not genetic, that is, it's largely determined by environmental factors affecting our parents' health, by parental smoking, drug and alcohol use, by parent sleep, dietary and exercise habits and by their spiritual belief habits, social patterns and social support networks.

    These factors affect expression of key chemical modification of histones that in turn control developmental expression of genes. Those tendencies are then reinforced by environmental factors present in early, adolescent and adult years.

    The primary controller is CNS cellular redox status and it's impairment by those key environmental factors at the hypothalamus.


    • #3
      Re: Addiction &quot;Largly Determined by Our Genes&quot;

      In the field of treatment and prevention of substance abuse (addictions) we can look at brief prevention intervention messages to help individuals assess their risk. Each addicition is a bit different but has similarities as noted above. All have a genetic component and all have an environmental compenent (ie if you are never exposed to the drug you never get addicted).
      One can look at their family and then their personal experience to get a notion of the risk. If mulitple family members are addicted to alchol and an individual on the few occasions they drink drinks to intoxication, then that person is at risk and should avoid alcohol all together. Most people who develop dependence on alcohol do so over a long period of time of heavy consumption (eg 4 drinks/day for 10 years or more). They may still be functional but are at risk for developing problems and should cut down significantly.
      Also we should note that aside from addiction, most drugs of abuse have significant psychiatric complications such as sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety etc.
      Joe Thornton MD
      Thought has a dual purpose in ethics: to affirm life, and to lead from ethical impulses to a rational course of action - Teaching Reverence for Life -Albert Schweitzer. JT


      • #4
        Re: Addiction &quot;Largly Determined by Our Genes&quot;

        Originally posted by Oracle View Post
        .........addiction tendency is epigenetic not genetic, ..........
        Could you give us some references explaining these studies?


        "The next major advancement in the health of American people will be determined by what the individual is willing to do for himself"-- John Knowles, Former President of the Rockefeller Foundation


        • #5
          Re: Addiction &quot;Largly Determined by Our Genes&quot;

          Addiction: the epigenetic effect

          This month 'The Independent' reported that 3000% more Britons are using cocaine today than a decade ago. The rise is attributed both to increased availability and a drop in the cost of the class A substance. The long term-implications of this trend are especially worrying in light of recent research, which indicates that the opiate can actually reprogramme the way your brain works.

          Ruth Williams reports :: September 2006

          Psychoactive drugs can rewrite the
          epigenetic code of your brain cells according to recent research. The new findings provide clues that might help to explain how transient changes in the brain environment ? the presence of a drug ? translate into the long term changes in the brain?s cell connections that can ultimately lead to addiction.

          The brain?s ability to learn is an iterative process that continually links events with outcomes until associative memories are formed. Psychoactive drugs that induce a ?high? (or reward) stimulate this learning circuitry and it?s thought that, in addiction, the reward-related learning system essentially enters pathological overdrive leading to compulsion. Regular (chronic) compulsive drug taking then further reinforces the learnt association and exacerbates the problem.

          On a physical level, learning promotes the strength of connection and communication between particular brain cells. Although little is known about the molecular mechanisms that lead to this strengthening, it is thought to involve the switching on of
          genes that control the physical remodelling of the connections.

          A number of genes are switched on in brain cells following administration of drugs such as cocaine and new research shows this switch mechanism involves epigenetic modifications - chemical changes to either the
          DNA (that codes the gene) or the DNA-associated proteins (histones).

          Epigenetic modifications do not change the DNA code itself, but rather, influence the availability of the code to the factors that read it and translate it into its product. Hence epigenetic modifications can make a gene accessible and thus increase the amount that it is read (increase the level of product), or make it inaccessible ? effectively switching it off. Cocaine has been shown to lead to the
          acetylation of histones at genes that it switches on ? a modification known to be associated with accessible active DNA.

          Cocaine not only alters the epigenetic status of genes but also induces particular epigenetic modifications depending on the frequency of the drug?s administration. Certain genes are switched on by infrequent (acute) administration, while others are switched on only after chronic administration (such as in addiction). Some are switched on by both. The genes switched on by acute administration, get their associated
          histone H4 proteins acetylated, while genes switched on by chronic drug administration get their associated histone H3 proteins acetylated. Lastly, genes that are switched on by both types of drug exposure, show H4 acetylation during initial cocaine exposure and then switch to H3 acetylation as the administration becomes chronic.

          Importantly, at a number of genes induced by chronic cocaine exposure, H3 acetylation persists long after the drug?s withdrawal. This prolonged molecular mark might thus lead to long-term activation of the genes and accumulation of their remodelling products, which could, in turn, explain the long-lasting physical changes required to strengthen brain cell connections during learning and addiction.

          The same genes switched on by cocaine can also be switched on by other drugs of abuse. If it turns out that these other drugs are also acting epigenetically and with long-lasting effect, then investigating how to erase the epigenetic modifications in specific areas of the brain could lead to a potential treatment for addiction.

          Original article

          Related articles: Levine et al 2005and Tsankova et al 2006


          "The next major advancement in the health of American people will be determined by what the individual is willing to do for himself"-- John Knowles, Former President of the Rockefeller Foundation


          • #6
            Re: Addiction &quot;Largly Determined by Our Genes&quot;







            Results from first page of google search, using terms drug addition and epigenetics.

            Other reports can be found using search terms with epigenetic included, like: maternal factors, depression, autism, alcohol abuse, etc.


            • #7
              Re: Addiction &quot;Largly Determined by Our Genes&quot;


              "The next major advancement in the health of American people will be determined by what the individual is willing to do for himself"-- John Knowles, Former President of the Rockefeller Foundation