In a number of cases, some people can be seen smoking for a year and then quitting without any hindrance, while others get addicted for a long time. In other cases, some can do without alcohol while others are simply addicted to it. The same can be attributed to hereditary propensity. Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine, led by Hyejung Won, are studying these underlying genetic variations.
During their study, Won and his team discovered genes that are connected to drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. They found that certain types of brain cells that make other cells send chemical messages to the brain have an excess of these genes.
The research that was published in the journal ‘Molecular Psychiatry’, suggested that genes linked to
Smoking is connected to pain and how the body reacts to food apart from the consumption of drugs. Importantly, learning, stress, and intake of drugs like morphine were linked to other genes that are associated with the use of alcohol.
They also studied publicly accessible pharmacological databases to find out the novel treatment for substance abuse. Nancy Sey, one of the authors of the paper, found that antipsychotics and other mood stabilisers can be used to offer therapeutic treatment to those battling substance misuse.
It may be noted that a number of health problems like mental illnesses, liver disease, and lung cancer are related to substance use in the long term. There are, however, not many therapies available due to a lack of understanding of molecular mechanisms.
As per Won, the two studies have shown that apart from factors like personal trauma or family issues, genetics can also be the reason behind drug abuse. He further pointed out that by comparing the people who misuse drugs and who do not, researchers can take the help of GWAS to study particular regions in the genome that lead to such factors. Moreover, this can also not provide details on how genes in these areas influence such habits. This is due to the fact that these areas are frequently found in the genome’s “non-coding” regions.