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Researchers Find Link Between Genes and Addiction

The reasons why one person becomes addicted to a substance while another one may not has proven to be a mystery for many a health professional. Now, researchers are studying the impact of specific genes on a body’s ability to become addicted to things like alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, opioids, heroin and other substances.

Science Daily recently featured a piece that highlighted a study by addiction experts at the University of Virginia Health System and the University of Michigan. These experts have been examining the link between genetics and addiction for years and are honing in on specific genes that are closely associated with dependence.

"Addiction researchers have found that several genes are linked with multiple addictions," says co-author Ming Li, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the UVA School of Medicine, in the Science Daily piece.

"So, we're narrowing the scope to specific genetic targets. Once researchers can pinpoint exact genetic variants and molecular mechanisms, then we can create much more effective, even personalized, treatments for individuals addicted to a variety of substances."

Li also noted that the comparison of peaks for addictions to multiple substances on certain chromosomal locations verifies that genetic vulnerability to different substances overlaps in part. It has also been proven that variants in several genes have already been associated with addictions to multiple drugs.

The biggest challenge in this area is the researchers understand there is a connection between genetics and addiction, but the exact nature of the gene variants and how they function are still unknown. Further studies are recommended, but it could be years before this area offers keen insight into prevention of addiction and abuse.

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