Genetically high

Researchers in Israel say that the tendency to abuse heroin arises partly from one's genes. According to them, a handful of genes playa role in a wide variety of addictions and that there is a link between a specific gene mutation and opiate addiction. Richard Ebstein of the Sarah Herzog Memorial Hospital in Jerusalem along with his team stu- died 141 men who were addicted to heroin. According to their study, each of them had a gene which pro- duces a receptor molecule called the D4 receptor, which is responsible for the brain chemical dopamine. They found that 29 per cent of the addicts had the mutant D4 receptor gene, compared with 12 per cent of the controls. Genetic factors do not cause addiction, they merely raise or lower the risk. Ebstein and his colleagues point out that unidentified genes may also con- tribute to the risk of addiction (New Scientist, VollS4, No 2080 ).

Related Content