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

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani 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.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid