News / Health

Inherited Vulnerability to Drug Addiction Discovered

Brain abnormalities found in addicts and their non-addicted siblings

Brain abnormalities found in addicts and their non-addicted siblings suggest these congenital differences might be to blame for the increased vulnerability to drug abuse.
Brain abnormalities found in addicts and their non-addicted siblings suggest these congenital differences might be to blame for the increased vulnerability to drug abuse.

Multimedia

Audio
Jessica Berman

Scientists have discovered structural abnormalities in the brains of drug addicts and their non-addicted siblings, a finding that suggests there may be an inherited vulnerability to addiction, and that behavioral therapies could help addicts recover.  

Substance abuse is known to run in families, according to experts, who say that having an addicted family member increases a person’s risk of addiction by eight to ten percent above the general population.  



Researchers have yet to identify an addiction gene. But Karen Esche at the University of Cambridge in Britain says the brain abnormalities found in addicts and their non-addicted siblings suggest these congenital differences might be to blame for the increased vulnerability to drug abuse.  

“This may suggest that some of the impairments that we see in the drug users are not caused by the drugs or [do not] predispose them to addiction,” Esche says.

Esche's team used magnetic resonance imaging to take pictures of the brains of cocaine addicts and their non-addicted siblings. The images showed the same patterns of abnormalities in the pre-frontal and striatal regions of the brain, patterns not evident in the brains of unrelated volunteers.

Researchers also tested the study participants to see how quickly they could switch from one task to another. The addicted sibling pairs fared much worse than the volunteers, suggesting high levels of impulsivity and a lack of self-control.

“Which again puts them at risk of taking drugs, because what we see in addiction is that that self-control gets lost," Esche says. "Loss of control - loss of control over drug use - is a hallmark of addiction.”

Nora Volkow, director of the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, says the study suggests the brain abnormalities observed in the addicted sibling are not due to chronic and repeated drug abuse. She believes people with a biological vulnerability to drug abuse can resist the temptation, which is good news for drug addicts.

“Even if you have a vulnerability in your brain that makes those areas not function properly, you can overcome it by interventions that can help you strengthen it,” she says.

According to Volkow, aerobic exercise has been shown to improve impulse control. So, too, have computer training programs designed to strengthen the pre-frontal areas of the brain that have been implicated in addiction.

You May Like

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down up to three percent, while US market indexes were off around 2.5 percent in afternoon trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs