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Harvard Health Blog
Your genes and addiction
- By: Maria Mavrikaki, PhD,
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Thanks for your article discussing the role stress plays in addiction and relapse. While impact of stress in addiction has been widely studied in the scientific literature, it is not generally understood by the public at large. Treatments that could reduce the physiologic effects of stress may be effective treatments for addiction by helping those suffering an addiction to maintain long-term abstinence even when faced with stressors. Our company, Embera NeuroTherapeutics, is one of the few working to develop new treatments for patients and the clinicians treating this disease with a focus on addressing the stress response system and its role in addiction. We have two products that are entering mid-stage clinical testing one for cocaine addiction and a second for smokers to help them quit their nicotine addiction.
Thanks for your help raising the awareness the addiction problem we face in our society and your continued work to advance the science in a field in need of better treatments for patients.
I mentioned this in both my books” Brain, Mind, SAI Educare “ – published in 2004 and
“ Early Brain Sprouts from States to Traits”
A clear , universally applicable Cognitive Behavior Management was discussed and gave a table for quick referenced
ICIHS congress sponsored by NIH in October of 2003 introduced speakers who proved genetic transcription changes from exposure to calming music and hymns as an anti stress factor. Hindu Vedic philosophy taught this through YOGA practice techniques breathing exercises, meditation and Hatha Yoga techniques.
Now AIIMS proved with 26 years of prospective brain research that Gayatri Mantra chanting increased conscience, attention span, reflective thinking, self- regulation , decreased impulsivity and instant gratification.
Thank you SCIENCE for reaching and meeting SPIRITUALITY to make us understand the difference between Human Being to be a Human
Meena Chintapalli, MD. FAAP
Cigarettes are absolutely an addiction which is why I read these kind of articles. I smoked 10-15 per day for 30 years and 5-10 for the last 8. I quit for 3 different health events in the last 10 years for 4-6 months and went back to it. I exercise and control my weight but for someone with my genes that’s not enough. I’m having triple bypass surgery on Wednesday. I quit 2+ weeks ago when I got the diagnosis. Doctor says I should be fine. I hope I don’t start smoking again but even this surgery doesn’t make that certain. The very definition of addiction.
What about consumption of certain foods as a stressor? For example, consuming foods that aggravate arthritis due to its inflammatory nature like the Solonaceae or nightshades (peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant) which are known as rheumatism enhancers. These should be avoided instead of reaching for painkillers after its consumption. Perhaps if we study more the connection between nutrition and pain we can have a deeper understanding of addiction in our system.
Just as stress can induce negative epigenetic changes, I suspect that activities like meditation and yoga induce positive epigenetic changes. I am encouraged to read that more and more pre-college schools are offering mindfulness classes. Practicing mindfulness with meditation is a life enhancing activity and shows how you can improve your self awareness. You just need to get good information and to keep at it.
I have had huge befits through daily listening to many meditation video on youTube. Some are very powerful based on their affects on certain frequencies and their affects in certain areas of the brain. Just learning and it’s helping with my headaches and sleep. I would love to find once designed for withdrawal, so it could help my friend with her tapering off opioids.
We forget how power our brain is and just live on autopilot.
stressful situation, such as the death of a significant other or the loss of a job
Edit: Stressful situation such as; death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, moving etc…
My spouse suffers from delusional jealousy. You make reference to stress as a factor in addiction. Can this also be a factor in delusion? Is treatment similar to that for addiction?
Oscar, your wife is suffering from extreme insecurity. She is having a spiritual crisis regarding her own creativity. Delusions mean she is highly sensitive and very creative. Maybe working with arts and crafts, dance or playing music can help her insecurity.
When saying that it is “the choices that we make”, you infer that typical response that addicts have heard for decades, even centuries, that you are just a weak willed person making the wrong decisions! Yet time has shown over and over, that many very strong-willed people, who have started and run very successful companies, who have very good families, who have worked very hard and are disciplined in every area of their life, have shown exemplary strong wills except when it comes to alcohol or drug addiction. Science is now finding that there are genetic and other complicated reasons for addiction to take place. your judging of their very character shows a lack of understanding and a judgmental attitude. I myself am a church pastor and have a very strong reputation in my community in upstate NY, yet I attend AA meetings 3 times/week to remain sober because of my genetic inclination to fall in the alcohol trap.
Attitude is vital and can be positively conditioned, starting with the development of a true purpose for our lives. In turn, the hormonal balance is affected and physical health emerges.
“never lead me to addiction.”
“My only vice is smoking cigarettes”
Found this information very interesting for my dissertation on drug addiction and relapse.
I agree that if you have loss or stress being active helps. But addiction depends on not only personalities as an individual, but also the choices you make as an adult. I have had several losses without being active when I should have been, but it never lead me to addiction. My only vice is smoking cigarettes and 1 coffee in the morning. I’m not over/under weight, rich, or on assistance from the government, or have had a glamorous life. It is the choices we make!
Cigarettes. What a bad “choice”!
So sorry for your losses, Nancy. However, you may want to examine your statement re. not being addicted to anything, but following it up by rating your “vice” of smoking cigarettes. That, in itself, may very well be your personal addiction. If you only smoked a cigarette, say— 12 times a year, it may be relate differently. But I suspect the cigarette is what you go for when you are under stress. Forgive me if I am wrong.
You may be grateful that you did not acquire the genetic predisposition noted in the article; tmany other have.
Nancy, the concept that only the choices you make does not necessarily apply in his case. This study was that your brain reacts to stress or other stimuli that can cause it to seek out a “reward” more often or a craving for such a reward. You can decide to not do opium in any case, but people do opium anyway. As such research along these lines could help find a way to reverse said changes could be great for the medical field and rehab.
Last I heard smoking cigarettes indicates an addiction to nicotine one of the most additive substances in the entire world which is responsible for aprox 300,000 deaths a year. Adrienne
Smoking IS an addiction and coping mechanism. It acts on the brain in the same way opioids do. It was my drug of choice for 25 years. Now 30 years clean.
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