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DNA Testing – Genes and Smoking


Smoking is one of the most difficult habits to kick - can DNA testing tell us if we are more likely to become a nicotine addict? Scientists believe DNA testing could uncover the genes that are responsible for addiction. Although it is a most complicated and subtle interplay between our genetic make-up and the environment and if we may become addicted to nicotine, it is thought DNA testing  it could be able to help in developing drugs to help treat addicts.

Smoking Ban

Never before has the need to give up smoking been more important. Aside from the most obvious impact to health, the UK has recently enforced a smoking ban in public places. Smoking is now anti-social and a far cry from being the ‘cool’ and ‘glamorous’ habit it was once perceived to be. Smoking however is known as one of the hardest addictions to quit. So could DNA testing provide some valuable help?

DNA Testing and Nicotine Addiction

Several years ago, the BBC reported on a DNA test that maybe was able to help smokers quit the habit. DNA testing requires a few drops of blood, and the simple DNA test could help discover if the addictive gene was present and which method of quitting is more suitable. The idea that there could be a tailor made treatment to fit each individual’s genetic make-up was first suggested by an Oxford University team researching the subject of smoking cessation.

Does DNA Testing Work?

So how does DNA testing for nicotine addiction work? The DNA test has been dubbed the Nico Test – and it works in a similar way that diabetics test for blood-sugar. There is still some debate around DNA testing and addiction, but the Oxford team discovered that the ‘addictive gene’ is present in 35% of us, and it is this sector of people who are more likely to benefit from treatments such as nicotine replacement therapy. The team suggested that if DNA testing revealed you did not have the addictive gene, you could still successfully quit smoking using nicotine-free methods.

Nicotine and Quitting

DNA testing can help work out how quickly a smoker can flush out nicotine from within their system, which also can help work out what dose of nicotine replacement therapy is needed to succeed. The Oxford scientists also said that twice the number of people succeeded in quitting as a result of discovering the gene and using the correct nicotine replacement therapy. Currently, around 96% of smokers who try to quit do indeed fail. Only around 5% who go cold turkey without the help or replacement therapy succeed.

It’s thought that parents would be most interested to know if their children had the gene. DNA testing could help make people more aware if they were going to be vulnerable to nicotine addiction. It’s thought by many scientists that there is still a long way to go and a lot more investigation needed when it comes to the role of genetics and DNA testing to determine and treat addictions.

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