The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is currently supporting a major research effort to identify the genetic variations that make a person vulnerable to drug addiction. This effort involves studying DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which directs the development of every human cell (Figure. By mapping DNA sequences in drug addicts, scientists have been able to isolate genetic sequences that indicate a higher risk of becoming addicted to drugs. These genetic sequences contain the instructions for producing specific proteins, which perform most of the body's vital functions.
How these proteins work or don't work can indicate how vulnerable a person is to drug addiction (Figure). Accumulated evidence suggests that environmental factors, such as stress, induce epigenetic changes that may trigger the development of psychiatric disorders and drug addiction. Epigenetic changes refer to the regulations of gene expression that do not involve alterations in the sequence of the genetic material (DNA) itself. In practice, epigenetic changes are information that is added to existing genetic material, but that can affect gene expression.
Every person inherits a unique combination of genetic variations. People with substance use disorder may have different underlying genetic causes. And people who share certain high-risk genetic variations may or may not have the trait. By using new scientific methods of genome mapping and sequencing to analyze genetic variations, scientists can gather stronger evidence from the families of people affected by addiction to better understand a person's risk of developing an addiction.
The mission of NIDA's Division of Neuroscience and Behavior (DNB) is to advance the science of drug use and addiction through basic and clinical biomedical neuroscience and behavioral research. Gender can also influence the development of addiction; women may be at greater risk of cravings and relapses, while men are more likely to misuse a substance. However, recent studies have found that genetic risks can make a person much more likely to develop a drug or alcohol addiction than previously believed. The development of multidimensional data sets that include and integrate genetic and epigenetic information provides a unique view of the molecular genetic processes that underlie the causes and consequences of drug addiction.
Treatment can help you understand addiction and its triggers, teach you ways to prevent relapses, and develop better skills to manage stress and cope with the situation so that you can refrain from using drugs and alcohol. The DNB accomplishes its mission by developing and supporting an extramural research program that provides an understanding of the neurobiological and behavioral mechanisms of drug abuse and its consequences. Learning more about the genetic, epigenetic and neurobiological basis of addiction will eventually advance the science of addiction. While the link between family history, genetics, and addiction is undeniable, it doesn't mean there's no hope for those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Finding the biological basis for this risk is an important avenue of research for scientists trying to solve the problem of drug addiction. The disease known as drug addiction shares many characteristics with other chronic diseases, one of which is heritability, that is, the tendency to be hereditary. Because cocaine causes a sharp increase in the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for the feeling of pleasure, or the high that drug users desire, PSD-95 is likely to be involved in other types of addiction. Replacing these healthy replacement behaviors is a positive way to help the brain recover from addiction and to reconfigure old addiction pathways in the brain.
The Genetics, Epigenetics and Developmental Neuroscience Branch of DNB supports research on genetics, epigenetics, and the developmental mechanisms underlying substance use, misuse, and addiction. Many people who struggle with substance use disorder wonder if their addiction is hereditary. . .
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