The opioid epidemic that has devastated the United States has directly impacted more than 2 million people. Addiction does not discriminate. Gone are the days when individuals were stereotyped into one category based solely on their socioeconomic status or skin color. Is it safe to assume there is more to this problem than simply poor behavior, wrong choices, or rebellion — to name a few? There have been numerous studies on the topic of addiction and how much of a role genetics actually play. Many people believe it’s 50-50, meaning 50 percent genetics and 50 percent poor coping skills or lack of willingness to stop using drugs and living a destructive lifestyle after entering a drug and alcohol treatment center.
Others believe that someone’s environment and social upbringing can have a lot to do with whether a person engages in experimental drug use, thus leading to full-blown addiction. In cases like this, immersing yourself in inpatient rehab may be the best way to escape surroundings and change your life. Also, the whole theory of genetics playing a role in an opioid or addiction, in general, makes it easier for many to understand when addiction is recognized as a “brain disease.” The debate between addiction being a choice or a disease continues to stir up controversy in America and scientists hope to alleviate some of that confusion with the studies they are completing.
Society tends to like facts. Society also likes science: Black and white, easy to understand and logical information. Addiction is anything but easy to understand, black and white or logical. In terms of science, according to CNN, researchers have identified a gene that may play an important role in the risk of opioid dependence. This only adds to the theory that genetics plays a very important role in figuring out who would — or would not — develop an addiction within their lifetime. In one study, more than 5,000 people who were exposed to opioids were studied, looking at the differences between those who actually developed independence and who didn’t. The subjects within this study consisted of African Americans as well as European Americans. There was a genetic variance on a chromosome that was associated with dependence, in both the African American individuals as well as European American subjects. The gene that was studied, called RGMA, has also been linked to psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia or autism — both being disorders linked to some genetic factors.
Researchers and scientists also utilized the brains of mice in order to do some scientific testing. This specific gene is very significant when it comes to cell signaling that travels to the brain. This gene could potentially interfere with other networks in the brain during the cell signaling. The difference between this specific gene and others is that the signal is sent out in the frontal cortex is correlated with greater opioid dependence, which was realized a long time ago within a different study on addiction and the impact on the human brain. There is still much research that needs to be done to make sure this information is completely accurate before stating that this gene, RGMA, is most likely responsible for specific types of people developing an addiction.
A factor that confuses many people when it comes to genetics playing a role in addiction is whether or not a child or teenager is being brought up in a household with other addicts, using drugs and drinking alcohol around them and engaging in an unhealthy and dangerous lifestyle that the child or teenager may grow up learning and imitating. When one or more person in the household is addicted to any kind of substance, the chances of this child or teenager growing up to live the same lifestyle increases. When both parents and an older sibling, aunt, and uncle, are all addicted to drugs and alcohol, this may look like genetics on the outside, but is it really a social or environmental factor? Is it both? The science revolving around this very topic continues to emerge and more details involving genetics are becoming clearer.
Finding the Fix
Regardless of the reasoning behind the development of addiction, one thing society as a whole can more than likely agree on is the fact that the opioid crisis must be fixed one way or another. Whether this be through treatment at an outpatient rehab or finding drug treatment programs, it’s clear that far too many families are having to attend their loved one’s funerals. Too many children are being left without parents due to the devastating effects of this horrible epidemic. Too many unhealthy and dangerous activities are being committed by people under the influence of these drugs that create a higher crime rate in many cities across America. It is a shame that death is becoming a common factor and many are desensitized to the issue altogether — especially when drug and alcohol rehab could help turn lives around.
The good news is that addiction does not have to be a death sentence and that recovery is a way of life for anyone who chooses to adopt certain elements into their way of daily living. After seeking out rehab centers in Florida, the appropriate counseling and learning more about addiction, their family system and themselves, most addicts can resume a normal life without relying on old behavior to cope with negative emotions.