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Drug Dependence, Is It Nature or Nurture?

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Some new discoveries about whether drug abuse and drug addiction is caused by genetic or environmental factors.

 

Nature or Nurture? This is a question that rings throughout the halls of academia and in the clinics, hospitals and detox rehabs everywhere. Is drug addiction carried genetically from parents to the children and then on to the next generation? Or is the addictive potential a result of environmental exposure to parents or siblings dealing with addiction as a learned behavior?

 

The question has been debated for many, many years and while there is supporting evidence on both sides of the issue, many researchers have developed very definite opinions and have taken sides in the debate.

 

But, in a recent release of information from the Human Genome Project as reported on the PBS science website, NOVA Online:

 

“The most shocking surprise that emerged from the full sequence of the human genome earlier this year is that we are the proud owners of a paltry 30,000 genes -- barely twice the number of a fruit fly.

After a decade of hype surrounding the Human Genome Project, punctuated at regular intervals by gaudy headlines proclaiming the discovery of genes for killer diseases and complex traits, this unexpected result led some journalists to a stunning conclusion. The seesaw struggle between our genes -- nature -- and the environment -- nurture -- had swung sharply in favor of nurture. "We simply do not have enough genes for this idea of biological determinism to be right," asserted Craig Venter, president of Celera Genomics, one of the two teams that cracked the human genome last February.”

 

This is good news and bad---bad because the long and worn excuse of addicted persons that their genes made drug abuse and addiction inevitable will not quite wash anymore.

But really, this is very good because it means our fates were always, truly, up to us. And there never were predetermined addictions; no sons or daughters for whom drug or alcohol abuse and dependence were inevitable.

 

More importantly, if using and abusing were always choices, then quitting is also a choice. And that is an encouraging thought for anyone fighting addiction. Even though help is required when the addiction is full blown, the decision to seek help is in the hands of the patient and always was…not predetermined by some genetic code.

 

While they say there may be other factors, as yet undiscovered, which might make a person predisposed to drug addiction, apparently an addict always did have a choice and that is the best news of all.



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