This is the first of the posts in the addiction and natural medicine series.
In this post, we will discuss the genetic factors in play with addiction.
Perhaps one of the most researched ways for researching alcoholism, it is something that runs in families, and the risk of being an alcoholic is 4x more amongst the males of fathers who were alcoholic than sons of non-alcoholic fathers. However, we also see that kids of alcoholics do not become alcoholics & there are about half of the alcoholics known, do not have any other family members who are alcoholics.
This is a biological or physiological method of acquiring this disorder. This is said to be linked to the molecule Dopamine.
The chemical structure of Dopamine.
This molecule is said to be the main mood molecule, in addiction studies this is known as D2. A researcher on psychopharmacology called Kenneth Blum PhD states:
Forty years of research into the causes of alcoholism and other addictions have led to one conclusion: Irresistable craving is a malfunction of the reward centres of the brain… Genetic research….indicates that the malfunction begins in the gene.
Dr Blum then continues by mentioning the Brain Reward Cascade, (BRC). He describes it as:
This is the harmonious functioning of the brain’s neurotransmitters which work together in complex ways, to ensure the proper levels of dopamine in the brain’s reward centre. (Pleasurable activities or occurrences, even something as receiving a compliment, result in the release of dopamine in the brain, the “reward” or feel – good neurotransmitter.)
According to the model by Dr Blum, the genetic affects the system by triggering a breakdown in the BRC, which manifests in the person as feeling uneasy and having anxiety. This uncomfortable feeling then has the person trying to get rid of these feelings via substances or behaviour. The term which is given to this is:
Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS) – common predisposition to addiction.
Carrying on with the addiction theme, there may be another way the genetic factors play a part and that is, in the way the liver processes alcohol that predisposes a person towards alcoholism.
After all that, genetic factors isn’t the be all and end all of addiction, as genetics isn’t your destiny, as stated once by a biochemist – “Genetics doesn’t mean hopeless or incurable. What genetics means, to me, is chemistry. Chemistry can be adjusted and corrected.” Dr Blum’s research also backs up the biochemist, as he has found that supplementing the diet with amino acids – which are the starting products of neurotransmitters, which in turn can help with the RDS.
Although in our case, we can not change our genetic blueprint, however, we do have environmental factors, (which will be discussed later on in the series), which will play a part in drug addiction. However, the 1st step is to work out what these factors are, and then we can reduce them or totally take them out of out completely.
Marohn, S., 2004. The natural medicine guide to addiction. P28 – 30.