February 3, 2012
Siblings Of Addicts Wired For Addiction
Scientists have discovered that addicts and their siblings have the same disorders in the brain, meaning both are wired for addictive behavior.
However, the siblings that do not exhibit addictive tendencies give researchers hope that addiction can be cured.
Paul Keedwell, a consultant psychiatrist from Britain´s Cardiff University who was not involved in the study, told Reuters: “If we could get a handle on what makes unaffected relatives of addicts so resilient we might be able to prevent a lot of addiction from taking hold.”
Collecting data on drug addicts is difficult since they typically live on the fringes of society. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 15.3 million people globally who have drug problems and 148 countries report problems with injected drug use.
Scientists know that drug abusers have differences in their brains, but they were not sure if the drugs affected the brain or if the differences were already there before drug use.
The researchers worked around this problem by studying the brains of 50 crack addicts and their non-addict siblings and then comparing the results to the brains of other healthy people.
The scientists found that the brains of the non-addicted siblings had the same abnormalities in the part of the brain that controls behavior, the fronto-striatal systems.
According to Karen Ersche, the lead researcher, “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 finding now shed light on why the risk of becoming addicted to drugs is increased in people with a family history“¦Parts of their brains underlying self-control abilities work less efficiently.”
The results of the research is published in the journal Science.
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