New Study Seeks Dependency Tendency

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We've been told that addiction results from a complex interaction between genetics, societal pressures and psychology. Because of this, no one can predict with any accuracy who will and won't tend toward addiction. But now, scientists are hoping to reveal out one piece of the puzzle to find those who are predisposed.

In a joint effort with the Air Force, the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is working on a blood test that may show who is likely to become addicted.

Traditionally, scientists have sought an 'addiction gene' without much success. The problem may be that there are either multiple genes involved or that some genes are not activated. This means you may have the problem gene, but it's not expressed and so no addiction follows. There is justification for this idea because recent work (the sub-specialty of epi-genetics) has shown that having a gene isn't enough, the gene has to be 'turned on'.

By looking for substances in the blood, researchers hope to skip over reading DNA (which might be turned off) and see directly what differs in addicts and those resistant to addiction.

The two-year, $850,000 study will look for ways that opiates are metabolized. One hypothesis is that the addiction prone will show differences in how they process hydrocodone and other narcotics. Along with this, the study will investigate better detection of recent or previous use of opiates through blood tests.

More about the study can be found here.

If the study is successful, the real benefit is that a tendency toward addiction could be addressed before a full-blown habit exists. It would also help move addiction toward the biological side and firmly place it in the medical realm. Clearly, one of the best ways to understand and treat a disease is to understand exactly what's going on.

Armed with the proper information, doctors would know, before they wrote a prescription, whether or not any particular patient was likely to become dependent on a drug. Those at risk for developing an addiction -- including alcoholism -- could be warned and monitored more closely.

While no answers are expected for several years, this is an encouraging area and it's refreshing to see new ideas investigated.

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