You may have noticed that we have changed our blog a bit. One of these changes is categorizing our blog posts for the reader to more easily be able to access information that interests them. Today we have added a new category, “Scientific,” where we can highlight new and recent scientific information as it pertains to addiction and recovery. Today’s post was written by Austin Recovery Outreach & Marketing Assistant, Caitlin Quinn. Caitlin has taken on the challenge of being our Scientific blog writer, so she will be keeping her ear to the ground for the latest and greatest scientific news in the addiction and recovery world, and summarizing for us and our blog-reading pleasure.
The blog post today examines a recent study of the brain on the hereditary link in addiction by Dr. Karen Ersche of the Behavioral and Clinical Neuroscience Institute at Cambridge University. Great new information! Thanks for sharing, Caitlin!
Hereditary Link in Addiction
They did it. Scientists were finally able to prove a hereditary link in addiction. After all that angsty shop we talk, it’s true— inherited genes and brain chemistry have a definite part to play in the development of addiction. In February, the journal Science reported the findings of a sibling study done in Britain that looked at common ties of addiction in addicts and their healthy siblings. Led by Dr. Karen Ersche of the Behavioral and Clinical Neuroscience Institute at Cambridge University, Erche and her team proved a correlation between addiction and genealogy by looking at 47 addicts, 49 of their healthy brothers and sisters of similar age and intelligence, and 50 unrelated and sober volunteers. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse says of the experiment, “This is an elegant design that allows them to say, ‘No, this was not something that relates to the drug exposure, this has something to do with heritability.’”
Focusing on the subjects’ brain activity and ability to control impulse behavior, the neuroscientists found brain irregularities in the siblings’ identical to the chronic addicts’. A chronic person of addiction has an abnormality in the prefrontal cortex (or self-control command center) and a larger putamen (responsible in habit behavior). Significantly, that chronic addict’s healthy sibling shares those same traits in their brains. Ersche notes, “It has long been known that not everyone who takes drugs becomes addicted, and that people at risk of drug dependence typically have deficits in self-control. Our findings now shed light on why the risk of becoming addicted to drugs is increased in people with a family history of drug or alcohol dependence: parts of their brains underlying self-control abilities work less efficiently.”
Ersche’s study shows that some siblings who are prone to addiction are able to remain resilient against drugs and alcohol, and that is remarkable—biology does not have to dictate your fate. What does this mean in terms of recovery for the sibling addicted? We’ll find out, but meanwhile, let’s be conscious of the cycle of addiction in our families because we have a power to stop it.
University of Cambridge. (2012). Siblings’ brain scans could hold the key to drug addiction. Retrieved from http://www.cam.ac.uk/
Time. (2012). Siblings Brain Study Sheds Light on the Roots of Addiction. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com