The Power of Genetics in Addiction & Secondhand Drinking / Drugging
Posted Jun 05 2012 10:10am
I was struck by Jonathan Haidt’s essay appearing in the June 1, 2012, issue of The Week, titled, “ Why You Vote the Way You Do .” (It also appeared in the May 25 online issue, which is where that last link will take you.) Readers familiar with BreakingTheCycles.com understand why this essay would grab my attention, and for those not familiar, it’s for two reasons: 1) the role genetics plays as one of the key risk factors for developing the disease of addiction, and 2) the role of the brain’s fight-or-flight stress-response neural networks when coping with Secondhand Drinking/Drugging.
But to the point of mentioning this essay. I was excited about the discussion of genetics and influences on brain development. And it all boils down to each of us being born with our own set of genes (obviously) which is what determines the levels and functioning of two of the key building blocks of a neural network – neurotransmitters and receptors. It is this — and a whole slew of other genetic influences — that determines how our brain starts its wiring and continues to change and wire differently as the brain develops. From there, it’s what happens to us along the way that interacts with that wiring to produce new thoughts and experiences.
In my opinion, it’s understanding this kind of brain research and science – solid facts – that helps us better understand addiction and why one person may develop this brain disease and another may not. And it helps us better understand the brain changes that occur for family members and friends who repeatedly cope with a loved one’s addiction without this understanding. This brain research, a result of imaging technologies that allow neuroscientists and medical professionals to study the brain in action, over time, and under the influence of drugs or stress, is giving us the solid scientific proof there is much we can do to heal / re-wire our brains and thereby change our lives (but that’s a whole other story). We live in very exciting times!!
You may wish to read this essay, “ Why You Vote the Way You Do .” It, like the role of genetics as a risk factor for addiction, is really quite interesting.