Abnormalities in the brain may make some people more likely to become drug addicts, according to scientists at the University of Cambridge. They found the same differences in the brains of addicts and their non-addicted brothers and sisters. The study suggested addiction is in part a “disorder of the brain”. Experts were unsure whether drugs changed the wiring of the brain or if drug addicts’ brains were wired differently in the first place.
This study, funded by the Medical Research Council, attempted to answer that by comparing the brains of 50 cocaine or crack addicts with the brain of their brother or sister, who had always been clean. Both the addicts and the non-addict siblings had the same abnormalities in the region of the brain which controls behavior. The suggestion is that these brains may be “hard-wired” for addiction in the first place. It shows that drug addiction is not a choice of lifestyle, it is a disorder of the brain. However, the non-addicted siblings had a very different life despite sharing the same susceptibility. It is possible that the similarities in the sibling’s brains may not be down to genetics, but rather growing up in the same household.
“If we could get a handle on what makes unaffected relatives of addicts so resilient we might be able to prevent a lot of addiction from taking hold,” said Dr Keedwell.The chief pharmacist for Derbyshire Mental Health Trust, David Branford, said the study, “implies that addiction does not produce noticeable changes to brain structure and function which means that there may be provision for looking at new treatment techniques for addiction”.
Article Title: Brains May Be Wired For Addiction
Sources: BBC News, James Gallagher, February 02, 2012
Student Name: Brenda Montanez, Sonoma State University
Evaluator: Stephen Hernandez, Mental Health Worker, Community Expert