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Gene Variant, A Key to Prevention?

Researches at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA) recently found a genetic variation in receptor sites known as the mu-opioid in the brain’s reward system that appear to influence the release of dopamine and may be key to addiction prevention. This also affects the degree of pleasure that individuals get from drinking. As reported by Join Together, the study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

It’s known that alcohol consumption causes the brain to release the neurotransmitter dopamine (responsible for pleasure, motivation, etc.), but science is beginning to understand how genes may influence the degree to which the brain responds to drinking. Ultimately, this may determine more effective methods for substance abuse prevention and rehabilitation.

Specifically, individuals who possess the 118G variant of the mu-opioid receptor may experience more pleasurable effects from alcohol. This puts them at greater risk for developing alcohol abuse and dependence. This may also explain why individuals with this genetic variant benefited the most from treatment that directly targeted the dopamine receptors.

Further understanding of this gene variant, its relationship to dopamine, and the ability to detect the gene variant in individuals could become a powerful means of prevention and early intervention.

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