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Tommy Recovery Coaching

Is There an “Addiction Gene”? Exploring the Genetic Links to Substance Abuse

According to global surveys tallied by the World Health Organization, 45 percent of adults don’t drink alcoholic beverages. This percentage includes people in recovery, people who abstain for religious reasons, and others who simply feel liquor isn’t for them. In the remaining 55 percent, approximately 300 million (about 5 percent) struggle with either alcoholism or other substance use disorders. 

If looking at these percentages prompts you to think addiction could be a matter of genetics, you’re not alone. Neuroscientists have been intrigued by substance abuse since Alcoholics Anonymous groups started meeting in the mid-20th century, and their research into the so-called “addiction gene” has yielded surprising results as well as even more intriguing questions. Keep reading as the addiction recovery specialists from Sober Lifestyle Coaching, the top professionals to reach out to for help with addiction recovery in Carlsbad, CA, discuss whether addiction has a genetic component.

Common Genes in Addiction

Any discussion about substance use disorder must begin with the understanding of addiction as a multifactorial disease. Attributing addiction to a single gene is as futile as the “War on Drugs” has been. You can’t narrow addiction to a single factor such as genetics. Other biological, neurochemical, environmental, and mental health factors cannot be ignored. 

With this in mind, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in Missouri have been training computer models to analyze millions of DNA records to identify substance abuse patterns, and they’ve found 47 variants. The gene signature of the dopamine receptor D2 (DRD2) is the closest to being worthy of the “addiction gene” title, but only because it’s part of the 47 variants. However, there are also DRD3 through DRD5 to consider, plus a dozen others.

Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) Genetic Patterns

Research into genetics and addiction began in the United States with Dr. Donald Heath and his study of fraternal twins diagnosed with AUD in the 1960s. His foundational work has been augmented with DNA sequencing, and now we know children of alcoholics are born with a 60 percent genetic predisposition to AUD. When compared to the rest of the population, children born to alcoholic parents are 4.4 times more likely to develop AUD.

The “Opioid Addiction Gene”

Of the aforementioned 47 gene variants that suggest a genetic predisposition to addiction, most are associated with smoking and vaping nicotine. Only nine have been identified for AUD, and five are for cannabis. In the case of opioid addiction, the receptor Delta-1 (OPRD1) variant is the only one associated with this condition, but it only accounts for 8 percent of the known addicted population.

The Bottom Line of Addiction & Genetics

Neuroscientists know they’re only scratching the surface of genetic research as it pertains to addiction, and most of them believe more attention should be given to mental health and the environmental factors of addiction. In the case of opioid addiction, if the OPRD1 variants are only found in 8 percent of addicts, it stands to reason that factors other than genetics are having a greater impact in terms of fueling addictions. The bottom line is that the current state of genetics research in addiction should continue, but not at the cost of ignoring other factors proven to have a stronger impact. 

For strength-based support with recovery or to enlist the services of an interventionist, Carlsbad residents can rely on the trained recovery coaches at Sober Lifestyle Coaching. We know precisely what it takes to get sober, stay sober, and live the healthy lifestyle you deserve. We specialize in working with clients with active addictions as well as clients already in recovery. Our sober coaches help clients work through potentially challenging events such as going to work and attending family gatherings while providing encouragement, accountability, insight, and understanding through our own recovery experiences. To learn more about how a sober lifestyle coach can help you or someone you love, call us today.

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