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DNA Testing - Genes And Addiction


Addiction can cause  both physical and mental ill health. Can DNA testing offer vital clues in battling these addictions? Our DNA is like an intricate instruction manual for our body. It affects the way we look and our general health, but can it also determine our behaviour? DNA testing shows that although our environment plays a crucial part in our behaviour, there are scientists who search for certain genes that can dictate our behaviour patterns and also addictive behaviour.

DNA Testing and Behaviour

Using DNA testing to try and determine behavioural traits is somewhat controversial. Ethical debates revolve around concerns that if DNA testing confirms you have a particular gene that may make you more susceptible to aggression or addiction, that this information could be used to discriminate against you.

Addiction and Genetics

The overall consensus is that although genes may make you more likely to be, for example an addictive personality, they don’t actually determine your personality. Environment and upbringing are believed to be the base that shape your personality. However, some believe that DNA testing can be useful to find out if you are more prone to certain behavioural traits.

DNA Testing and Substance Abuse

Can DNA testing help to spot potential substance abusers? Scientists certainly believe that people are more predisposed to addiction such as alcoholism, because of the role that their genes play. Genes interact to affect for example how tolerant you may be of alcohol. It is a well known fact that certain races are not as capable of tolerating alcohol, and this has often been put down to genetics. If DNA testing can help identify the genes that influence the level of alcohol toleration, it could help to develop treatments and drugs to help alcoholics.

Dopamine Dependent

DNA testing can help to reveal genes that show if we are more vulnerable to addiction. Dopamine is a chemical released in the brain that is associated with drug and alcohol abuse. Variant genes have been uncovered in some addicts that are thought to impact on dopamine levels. However, although this can mean the person in question is more vulnerable to addiction, they still remain in control over their own actions.

Nature and Nurture

Circumstances and how we have been treated emotionally in life are more likely to be the catalyst factors of an addiction than our genetic make-up is. DNA testing however could have a major and vital role to play in finding ways of helping to identify treatments for addicts. Research has shown that soldiers who fell into drug-abuse in Vietnam did so because of its easy availability and the environment was harsh. They did however recover quicker when they returned home to a civilian lifestyle and their recovery rate was much higher than other addicts revealing that environment played a major factor in addiction.

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